Made by Animal Lovers, for Animal Lovers (And Their Furry Companions)

Big Country Raw
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Raw feeding has long been a contentious issue for pet parents, particularly when it comes to food safety and nutrition—but these concerns are a thing of the past thanks to Big Country Raw.

At Big Country Raw, only the best ingredients and processes are used to produce a raw, frozen pet food that is highly nutritious and works to improve pets’ health, wellbeing and longevity, because as an extension of our families, they deserve the very best. And the best is even better when it’s affordable and accessible.

“As Canada’s leading frozen raw pet food brand, we’ve championed both affordability and accessibility while not compromising our commitment to the quality of our products,” explains Co-founder and Owner Geraldine Brouwer, which is one of the many reasons why Big Country Raw has become a leader in a market segment it helped to pioneer.

A recipe for success
For owners Geraldine and Rob Brouwer, Big Country Raw started as a personal journey to optimize pet health and became so much more than they ever bargained for. The couple who started out as Big Country Kennels began feeding their pups a raw diet in 2008 as a means of improving health and longevity, and it worked.

It worked so well, in fact, that through word of mouth, demand for their homemade raw food grew exponentially. By 2012, the company was formally established and operated out of the couple’s home kitchen until the demand for its products exceeded its capacity.

By 2019, an investment was made in a standalone 28,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Smithville, Ontario, where only a year later another 10,000 square feet of space would be added.

Simply put, the timing was right. As people were forced to stay home during the pandemic, pet ownership exploded, and these pet parents were increasingly moving away from ultra-processed, dried, shelf-stable foods in favor of healthier, fresher options for their furry companions. This shift, referred to as the humanization of pets, where pets are valued and cared for as family members, has vastly increased demand for the complete nutrition and unmatched quality of Big Country Raw’s offerings, which include raw frozen foods in addition to meal planning expertise.

For Brouwer, it makes sense. “We should be feeding fresher foods to our pets and making it accessible and affordable and convenient for people to access. Some of the great research that’s been done—like one of the latest studies that I love to speak about out of the University of Helsinki in partnership with DogRisk—suggests that even 20 percent fresh [food] is so impactful to your dog’s diet.”

The team at Big Country Raw includes a full-time pet nutrition expert who is responsible for formulating the recipes to ensure that the nutrition needs of the pets are fulfilled and that the brand is backed by certified expertise that can be trusted.

“Over the past 12 years, we’ve witnessed the transformation of the frozen raw category from niche to a mainstay in pet speciality stores nationwide,” says Brouwer. She says it has been a privilege to have played a role in revolutionizing pet nutrition for pet owners across the country.

From niche offering to market leaders
What sets Big Country Raw apart in an industry that is dominated by private equity firms is that it remains family-owned and operated by animal lovers who bring passion and purpose to the table and who believe wholeheartedly in the product they create.

“I think there has to be a passion for what you’re creating and for what you’re doing, and then you have to see a bigger purpose,” Brouwer notes, which includes nurturing the growth that comes through reinvestment and innovation.

This year, the company plans to nearly double its Smithville footprint with a 20,000-plus square foot addition of cold storage, crucial to meet the demands of the Canadian marketplace. It is no wonder that Big Country Raw has been on The Globe and Mail’s list of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies for two years running.

In addition to its Smithville operation, Big Country Raw has a distribution centre in Ottawa, Ontario to support the Quebec and East Coast markets, as well as a distribution centre in Calgary, Alberta to satisfy demand from the Western provinces. To date, the brand is carried by 1,400 specialty pet retailers and shows no signs of slowing down.

For Brouwer, innovation is an important part of the company’s success. “We are very focused on innovation as it’s the cornerstone of our growth strategy,” she says. “Our vision is to continue to offer quality without compromise and to continue to nurture the bond between pet and pet parent.” This commitment was recognized last year when Big Country Raw received the 2023 Pet Innovation Award for two categories: Product of the Year for Dog Food as well as Frozen/Raw.

Big Country Raw is also the first Canadian brand of raw pet food to complete an extended AAFCO feeding trial on puppies, kittens, and adult and senior dogs and cats to demonstrate that its products meet the nutritional needs of pets.

Supported by its exceptional commitment to food safety, which is backed by a HACCP score of 98 percent, as well as its relationships with the veterinary community, Big Country Raw continues to assert itself as a leader in the frozen/raw category of pet food in the Canadian market—and soon, beyond.

New horizons
Having conquered the Canadian market, Big Country Raw has its sights set on new geographic areas, including the United States, as well as the introduction of products in new market segments.

The company has released a new XL line, and as the name indicates, it offers bigger portions and greater overall value. With the same top-notch ingredients and the same commitment to quality, the company is making every effort to save its customers money at a time when inflationary struggles persist.

The Brouwers also understand that raw isn’t for everyone, so they have created other options under the Big Country Pet Company banner, intended to bring health and wellness to pets without having to make the full conversion to raw.

“The Big Country Raw brand embodies the raw food, the fresh foods, and we wanted to be very true to that. We also know that there’s a much wider plethora of options and products that pet parents are looking for and I think that they are looking for quality products and people that stand behind their products and create innovation,” says Brouwer.

Big Country Pet Company has thus launched Caravan, a frozen, gently cooked brand that appeals to pet parents who recognize the benefits of fresh foods but aren’t able to, or choose not to, feed their pets a fully raw diet. “Caravan is a product line extension; it’s still frozen, it’s minimally processed, and it’s a new customer segment, and we distribute from here in Smithville,” says Brouwer.

The recipe offers the highest percentage of meat at 80 percent, with the promise of no fillers and only four percent carbohydrates, making the line complete for dogs of all life stages. It also happens to be the lowest cost per serving of all gently cooked brands in the market.

Further to Big Country Raw and Caravan, Big Country Pet Company has other nutritious ways for pet parents to incorporate fresh foods into their pets’ meals via fresh toppers like raw fermented goats’ milk and quail eggs, and supplements from its Thrive line of all natural pet supplements in the form of oils, powders, and chews. And, for a little treat, there’s Frozen Goat, a line of yogurt “ice cream” that was launched in 2021 with three flavours. Each year new innovative options are added, including Cookies ‘n’ Cream in 2023 and Can’EH’dian Maple, which will be launching this May.

For pets and the environment
Looking ahead, with the Big Country name solidified in the market, the goal is to continue to educate the public about the benefits of feeding pets fresh ingredients and wholly nutritious meals, while overcoming the misconceptions related to safety and nutrition.

Brouwer acknowledges, “There is always a risk because it is raw food and not every household or every pet is the perfect candidate for raw foods, but in a lot of cases, for a healthy young dog and with taking the proper food safety steps in your own home, it’s very safe.”

Through its work, Big Country Raw is dedicated to improving health outcomes for pets as well as for people through a focus on environmental sustainability in its operations. From smaller efforts like maintaining local supply chains to custom packaging to reduce the amount of plastic needed, to large initiatives like the use of recycled air from the freezers to heat the floor of its Smithville facility, to solar-powered refrigeration units in its sprinter trucks and transports, sustainability is a priority for Big Country Raw.

“We’re heavily investing in making sure that all of the new buildings that we’re creating here at Big Country Raw are very carbon-friendly, so our new building is utilizing all sorts of energy-efficient methods to create the energy that we need to keep the food frozen,” explains Brouwer.

With initiatives like these, for the ever-discerning consumer who prioritizes quality, safety, and the environment, Big Country Raw and the other brands under the Big Country Pet Company umbrella are a sure bet, a brand that can be trusted to honour the relationship between pet families and their furry companions.



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