The pet industry is becoming more and more saturated as sales continue to grow annually. Last year the pet industry reached a revenue of nearly $60 billion. Pet owners are seeing their pets as children more than ever, and we all want what is best for our children. Especially when it comes to nutrition. Although there are many healthy options for pet food, there is one brand that continues to deliver with each product the make. That brand is Sojos. A wholesome, healthy, gluten-free, grain-free alternative pet food for your Dog & Cat.
The origins of Sojos came from a kitchen where two forward-thinking women used their knowledge of holistic nutrition and medicine to concoct a healthy alternative for dogs. Ward, a manager of a holistic veterinarian clinic, recommended owners to use their dog food, and was floored by the results. Once Sojos was for sale, he jumped at the opportunity to explore the true potential of Sojos.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Ward to discuss how Sojos has grown since he purchased the company, talk healthier alternatives for pets, and shed light on the current state of the pet industry.
Ward Johnsong and Maggie Johnson (wife/co-owner)
NCW: How has the company evolved since?
Ward: Back then, the company was just a recipe and a mailing list—and Sojos Original was the only food. This blend of grains, nuts, and sea vegetables enabled pet parents to create their own fresh, complete dog food by simply adding whatever raw meat they chose.
To this day, we’re still making Sojos Original—and it continues to do well. But our food offering has grown to include Sojos Grain-Free, Sojos Complete with freeze dried turkey, beef or lamb already in the bag—and our new exotic protein line, Sojos Wild™. We also have a full line of bakery treats—and last year we added 100% raw meat treats.
I should also mention that over the years we’ve brought all production under our own roof—and that’s given us complete control over the quality and safety of Sojos products.
NCW: It seems most companies are adopting cleaner and healthier ingredients for their products, what makes Sojos a healthier alternative and what makes it unique from other similar competitors?
Ward: Simply put, Sojos combines all the healthy benefits of raw nutrition—with the shelf-stable convenience of kibble. Our unique combination of freeze-dried raw meat blended with gently air-dried fruits and vegetables offers pet parents a safe, affordable and easy way to serve a healthy, raw diet.
NCW: What are your thoughts on the pet industry?
Ward: When I step back and think of my last twenty years with Sojos, it’s remarkable how the landscape has changed. As pets have become full-fledged members of our families, pet food has moved from a basic commodity—to a carefully considered purchase. Today’s concerned pet parents are no longer simply deferring to long-established brand names—instead they’re reading labels, researching online, and shopping at specialty retailers who have the know-how they need to help them make informed choices. Obviously, that’s been very good for pets—and for the makers of raw, shelf-stable foods, like Sojos.
NCW: In an interview you did back in 2012, you said that small independent pet stores would succeed as long as they partner with companies that have unique and ultra-healthy products uncommonly found in big-box retailers. Is this affecting your distribution strategy? Are you only in small stores?
Ward: Sojos’ commitment to the independent pet specialty channel remains unchanged. And now with more and more “natural” kibble brands filling the shelves of grocery, mass and big box stores—we think it’s more important than ever to stay true to knowledgeable retailers who take the time to educate their customers—and help them make well-informed choices for their pets.
NCW: And how can you create a mass change if you only reach a small part of the population?
Ward: Make no mistake, there are now upwards of 10,000 independent pet specialty retailers in the US. And the number is growing. That’s because more and more pet parents paying close attention to what’s going in their pet’s food dish—and they’re going the extra mile to get it. We see that as good news for the future of independent pet specialty stores—and for their dedicated brand partners, like Sojos.
NCW: What are you doing to help educate dog and cat owners about healthier foods for their loved ones?
Ward: Sojos is still a family-owned company that relies heavily on the positive word-of-mouth that comes from amazing products—and unmistakable results. That said, we work hard at making everything about Sojos easy to access and understand. We help our retail partners educate their sales teams—and pass that know-how on to their customers. We deploy demo reps across the country to interact directly with pet parents in stores. And we use targeted social media to reach concerned pet parents—and share stories of the transformative power of raw nutrition.
NCW: What are the main benefits of switching pets to a raw food diet, when we hear resistance from the veterinarians due to the possibility of our pets contracting harmful bacteria from these types of diet?
Ward: I think it’s important to remember that naturally-occurring nutrients and digestive enzymes are lost in the cooking process. That means raw ingredients not only contain more nutrients—they’re easier to absorb. And that, in turn, can help pets live healthier, more vibrant lives.
Unfortunately, “raw” is used to describe a variety of food forms. So it’s important for pet parents and vets alike, to look a little deeper.
For example, the USDA-inspected meat in Sojos is “raw,” but it’s also gently freeze-dried. And our patent-pending, 100% natural safety process eliminates pathogens, without harming nutrients. So pet parents can be assured that their pets are getting the superior nutrition of raw—in the safest form possible.
That said, I should also add that dogs have a very short and very strong digestive system. As a result, food passes through them quickly—and many food bourn pathogens that are harmful to humans, like salmonella and e-coli, are easily broken and down and eliminated.
NCW: How would I transition my dog, or cat to Sojos? (product recommendations, tips, etc)
Ward: It’s always best to take several days to slowly transition a dog from highly processed kibble food to a raw diet. Begin by adding a small amount of pre-soaked Sojos on day one—then gradually increase over 7 to 10 days. To make preparation easy, we suggest pre-soaking a batch of Sojos in the refrigerator so that you always have some ready to serve.
NCW: Have you heard any stories about dogs on a ‘Sojos diet’ that have reversed an illness, or condition? Explain.
Ward: I’ve heard every miraculous story imaginable when a dog is switched to Sojos. We even had a customer who named their child “Sojo” in honor of their saved pup. But obviously we can’t make health claims, and we strongly recommend that pet parents always consult with their vet when dealing with specific medical issues. That said, we take great joy in the constant flow of testimonials that come our way.
We’ve also launched an outreach to no-kill shelters called Project Celia. The goal is to help restore the health of what appear to be hopeless, unadoptable dogs with Sojos raw nutrition. Some of the early video reports are now posted on our website—sojos.com.
NCW: What is next for Sojos?
Ward: By all indications, the shift to alternative pet food has reached the tipping point. That said, we’ll continue working with retailers and other quality alternative food brands to spread the word about the transformative power of raw nutrition. At the same time, we’ll keep innovating and introducing more products like Sojos Wild™, our new exotic protein food. But most important of all, we’ll keep making the transition to raw easy, affordable and readily available to pet parents.
Hopefully, as a result, we’ll keep growing like crazy!
Check out all the latest raw food options for your best friend at www.sojos.com