IN THE BEGINNING
In early 2017 I came up with the idea for a freeze-dried food bar that would be unlike any other food in the market. I created a few prototypes but I’m not an animal nutritionist. I knew that in order for the new food to be great, I’d need someone with a proven formulation track record, credentialed and certified, and someone that was more than happy to challenge the status quo and take on “the impossible”. Fortunately, I had worked with just such a person at a previous pet food company.
In July, Ryan Yamka came on board as a co-founder and COO. He did amazing work and with every tweak and adjustment in the formulation, the bar got better and better. So much so that in October of 2017 we filed for patents in the US, Canada, and the EU. Later that month we founded Guardian Pet Food Company and incorporated in Delaware. It wasn’t without our share of problems. While we had created a radically better and different product, testing facilities and manufacturers weren’t able to make or test our products properly. Our first commercially available product didn’t hit the market until February 2019, a full 18 months after Ryan and I joined forces.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
When creating Guardian, we knew what we wanted to do and, just as importantly, what we did not want! These became our founding principles:
- We wanted to make the best pet food we could, nutritionally, from the pet’s perspective
- We would never forego what was best for the pet just for the sake of profit
- We would be transparent in every aspect. This included:
- Ingredient Sourcing
- Testing (and Results)
- In our marketing and communications, we would be Real. Simple. Honest.TM
- If a product feature didn’t resolve a “pain point”, it wasn’t a benefit.
We tried to reflect these principles in our logo and packaging as well. We used a Celtic Circle of Protection along with Odin’s Horns from Norse Mythology to represent the care of and esteem for animals. The reasons for the silhouettes of the dog and cat are obvious. It worked, or so it seemed, but it required an explanation and seemed a little too “old school” from a marketing perspective.
Our packaging itself was boring and completely utilitarian (fancy word for boring). The different dog breeds confused people and the images of the animals on the packaging weren’t a consumer favorite either. Then one day I was on the phone speaking with a K9 handler for the Massachusetts State Police, trying to sell him on the idea of Guardian Bars for each officer. While explaining the bars, the Trooper said, “Basically they’re MREs for dogs.” I wrote those three letters down and started tapping my pen as we continued our conversation. When the call ended, I looked down at my notes and the name was staring right at me…MoRE Canine Food Bars!
For our treats line, we knew we wanted our freeze-dried treats to follow the same path as our food. With the Bars being named “MoRE”, “Less” came up once or twice. After all, they had less ingredients than most treats, and the entire “MoRE is Less, Less is MoRE” thing seemed to make sense. That’s when Ryan said, “You know, in the wild, animals normally eat the whole heart, liver, and the striated meat of their prey first.” “Why don’t we just call them Whole Prey Treats? We’ll call the veggie treats No Prey.” I thought it was brilliant because it fit our tagline perfectly, “Real. Simple. Honest.”
CALL IN THE PROFESSIONALS
As we started to grow and get exposure, more than a few folks told us that they thought there was a disconnect between our logo, packaging, and product. Neither Ryan nor I came from a marketing background so we weren’t sure exactly what to do next. The Global Pet Expo was a few months away, so we decided it was time to hire professionals. It is NOT easy to have a group of strangers come in and tell you your baby is “ugly”, ESPECIALLY when you are paying them.
We worked on the brand framework and voice; internal and external messaging; even worked through some “creative tensions”. When it came to re-naming the products themselves, we were stuck in the mud, spinning our tires. On one of our morning calls Ryan said, “I had a dream last night about a new name. What do you think about Noble?” I liked it but wasn’t sold. We always said that we wanted to make the industry more transparent and put pets before profits? That night, while watching Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, a line stuck with me. Robin says, “I’ve seen knights in armor panic at the first hint of battle. And I’ve seen the lowliest unarmed squire pull a spear from his own body, to defend a dying horse. Nobility is not a birth-right, it is defined by one’s actions.” Ryan and I agreed; we were going to become Noble.
Our marketing agency ran with it and the more we discussed the name, the more it made sense.
NOBLE – Protecting pets by putting their needs first
NO BULL – No spins, just facts, and data
NO BOWL – The bars were convenient and easy to feed
To represent all aspects, we dropped the “E”.
The next step was to roll out our new tagline. We wanted something memorable that represented the brand and us. In one sentence, we needed it to differentiate NOBL from other companies. We needed it to tell a story and most importantly, we wanted it to draw a line in the sand! The last part we needed to do was make sure that the lifestyle images and messaging accurately conveyed who we are, what we do, and why consumers needed us! The Global Expo was by all accounts a smashing success for us. We received some great coverage from Pet Food Industry and Business Insider and lots of interest from retailers and distributors alike. Just when it looked like we were taking off, Covid-19 grounded us…in a BIG way. We were forced to delay the transition to NOBL packaging and paused our marketing efforts!! Our new products will start shipping to distributors and independent pet retailers across the United States and Canada, available to purchase on this website, noblfoods.com.
WITH THAT BEING SAID, I'D LIKE TO RE-INTRODUCE YOU TO THE GUARDIAN PET FOOD COMPANY AND OUR BRANDS
- We are a US-based company, produced in Canada. All of our ingredients are sourced in the US and/or Canada and we don’t use any artificial or synthetic ingredients in our treats or meat bars.
- Our bars are highly digestible (90%+), nutrient-dense (5800-6300 kcal/kg) highly palatable.
- We do NOT sell to PetSmart, Petco, Chewy or Amazon. We believe in the Independent Retailers.
- We are transparent with our ingredients, country of origin, testing results (digestibility), and our analytics (EAA, Vitamins and Minerals). Everything is available on our website.
- Our products are backed by a 100% Guarantee to distributors, retailers, and consumers.
- We don’t believe in marketing by fear or puffery. Why “Build a better bowl” when you could just make a better food…with NO BOWL required!?
To independent pet retailers, we know times are hard right now for you and your customers and the idea of taking on a new company’s line is scary but new products, innovative products, are the lifeblood of Pet Specialty. We are the perfect option to replace the fresh, frozen, and raw customers you’ve lost these last few months. We are here for you when you’re ready. Give us a try!