Luxury pet food takes a bigger bite out of the market

Edible proposition: Fazielah Allie, the owner of K-9 Pet Foods, believes her product has found its niche in a competitive market
Edible proposition: Fazielah Allie, the owner of K-9 Pet Foods, believes her product has found its niche in a competitive market

Johannesburg - Fazielah Allie, the managing director and majority owner of K-9 Pet Foods, says the business was launched out of necessity two decades ago. She couldn’t find pet food that she considered healthy enough for her dogs, so she began cooking their food herself. Her dogs’ new-found health was a great advertisement, and so her business started.

Now the company produces frozen pet food out of a factory in Montague Gardens in Cape Town and, as part of its growth plan, K-9 Pet Foods has secured a contract to manufacture wet pet food for Woolworths, among other retailers.

“We see a lot of potential for growth in the local market,” says Allie, despite the industry being fiercely competitive.

Having identified a unique growth opportunity in its niche market, K-9, which is a female-owned and female-empowered manufacturer, approached the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) for funding so that it could buy the plant machinery required to extend its product offering and fulfil its new contractual commitment.

Since then, the manufacturer has been on a growth curve, which is a remarkable feat considering that South Africa’s pet food industry is dominated by local and multinational heavyweights whose scale strategically gives them an edge against smaller players and newcomers.

“This market is difficult to penetrate considering the strength of established companies. But we believe in the quality of our product offering. What is more encouraging to us is that local retailers, some of whom are an extension of international brands, now stock our products,” says Allie.

In recent years, the IDC has significantly increased funding to female-owned and female-empowered businesses, which reflects an increasing shift to support women’s roles in advancing economic and social transformation.

To the end of the financial year on March 31, the corporation had approved R3.2 billion for businesses with female ownership of more than 25% – a 178% increase compared with the previous period.

A number of female-owned entities, such as K-9, that have received funding support from the IDC have invested in primary industries such as agriculture, forestry and fishing, as well as the manufacturing of food products – activities that form part of the core of the corporation’s Agroprocessing and Agriculture Strategic Business Unit.

Encouraged by potential growth prospects, Allie says that the IDC’s support has enabled the company to build a modern production plant that will enable K-9 to expand.

One of the most important elements of the contract with Woolworths is to facilitate import replacement, thereby replacing imported wet pet food with K-9’s locally produced food. This increases local manufacturing capacity, but also ensures that jobs are generated in South Africa.

The five-year procurement deal also fits in with Woolworths’ development initiatives and allows the pet food manufacturer to benefit from the resealable tub packaging – designed specifically for Woolworths – giving K-9 an advantage in the local pet food market.

Another notable feature of the IDC’s partnership with K-9 is that it fulfils the corporation’s objective to create a steady stream of black industrialists who are not only capable of growing their businesses, but who will also create jobs.

Allie, who still uses the same recipes and has the same attention to detail she did when she started out in 1996, says that, with the growth of the business, K-9 will create 37 jobs.

Funding women-led businesses in numbers:

The IDC approved R3.2bn for businesses with female ownership of more than 25% for the financial year to March 31, 2017. This is a 178% increase compared with the previous period.

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