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Idealog—in the ideas business

Food for wolves

BNZ helps Christchurch company K9 Natural export dog food inspired by the diet of wolves.

Ever considered owning a wolf as a pet? It may sound extreme but the question is not unrealistic: DNA research proves that the domestic dog is 99.8 percent wolf. That may be hard to imagine when watching a Labradoodle chase a stick or a little Chihuahua poke its head out of a designer bag but their nutritional needs and instincts are the same. They are animals that should be fed a meat-based, high-quality protein diet that is species appropriate.

It was the similarity between the DNA of dogs and wolves that inspired Geoff Bowers to create a new kind of dog food.During a sabbatical to study the grey wolf in Alaska, the former policeman and dog handler from Britain closely observed the wolves’ feeding habits. He decided to break into the dog food market with a natural product that was as close as possible to the diet of the Grey Wolf. With business partner Bruce Mayhew, Bowers started mixing ingredients for the ultimate dog food during weekends.

The food is different from other dog food in that it is 100 percent natural, raw and made from either beef, lamb, chicken, venison, salmon and a small amount of vegetables, eggs and fruit, true to the nutritional needs of canines.

Bowers’ wolf-inspired dog-food business, K9 Natural, took off in 2006 and has grown significantly, says chief executive Calvin Smith. The Christchurch-based company now exports to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and most recently the UK, Germany and the US.

Smith approached a number of local banks for assistance with export matters and dealing with foreign currencies. He found the Bank of New Zealand was the best fit for the growing company.

“BNZ was the most open to us and their turnaround was quick,” he says. “BNZ’s focus on small to medium-sized businesses was a massive selling point for us. Most of the other banks were only interested in larger businesses.”

Smith says that BNZ and the New Zealand Export Credit Office were instrumental to winning the contract with the US distributor. Prior to the last negotiation with the distributor, K9 Natural got a trade credit guarantee from NZECO and BNZ provided a trade finance loan in US dollars. “With the trade finance in place, we were able to negotiate a satisfactory deal.”

The bank’s Christchurch based Trade Centre was a strong attraction to K9 Natural. “Everything that I require from a banking perspective is available right here in Christchurch.”

BNZ’s Trade Centre is a onestop- shop for anything customers need help with in the international space. The team of 30 staff— including trade specialists and international bankers—handles all types of international transactions. The primary focus is removing the risk element for customers, whether they are making international payments, drafting a deal or putting controls in place to protect their export business, says Craig Wilson, partner of international trade at BNZ.

“Customers can come in and see us directly,” Wilson says. “Most of them are only a car ride away.”

The international bankers and trade specialists often visit customers to discuss their international business, including strategy, risk and cash flow management.

The Trade Centre, with its personal contact, works well alongside BNZ’s online international payments service. “You just can’t beat people on the ground,” says Wilson.

The Christchurch Trade Centre looks after the South Island and the North Island south of Taupo, while the Auckland-based Trade Centre looks after the rest of the country.

The next step for K9 Natural is setting up a web shop in the US. Because the dog food is raw, it’s either frozen or freeze-dried. The lightweight freeze-dried food comes in portable packs and has a long shelf life, making it ideal for selling online. But launching a US website with trading functionality is easier said than done. After talking to many banks, Smith found out that BNZ was the only bank that would allow the company to have its banking in New Zealand, yet charge American customers in US dollars. “That was another major reason why we chose to sign up with BNZ,” he says. “The only other way we could have done it was to set up a bank account in the US, which means we would have to set up a company there. That would have taken months and we didn’t have that time.”

In brief

  • K9 Natural exports wolf inspired dog food
  • Partnered with BNZ's Trade Centre
  • BNZ allows K9 Natural to bank here in New Zealand but charge in US dollars

Contact

BNZ, Phone 0800 247-586
www.bnz.co.nz

Originally published in Idealog #29, page 68

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