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Hawke’s Bay export awards: Pet food start-up Animals Like Us attracts nominations and eyes US

20 Jul 2023 12:56 AM | Mike Hearn (Administrator)

Next stop, the United States of America.

A Hawke’s Bay pet food start-up company, Animals Like Us, only launched in late 2020 but now has its dog and cat food products in hundreds of supermarkets across New Zealand and Australia.

It also has ambitious plans to launch in the US early next year.

The company is turning plenty of heads as a rising Hawke’s Bay exporter, and has been named a finalist in three out of four categories at the upcoming Hawke’s Bay Export Awards being held on August 10. Those awards also encompass Gisborne and Dannevirke.

Animals Like Us co-founder and CEO Rob Achten said the start-up company was “very ambitious with our plans for the US” after rolling out in Woolworths supermarkets across Australia earlier this year.

“A lot of New Zealand companies want to start off small, and we can get criticised a little bit for not thinking big enough, but I hope that does not apply to us.

“We are ambitious and want to grow quickly.”

The company has been named a finalist for the Best Emerging Business Award and Excellence in Innovation Award, while head of operations Rebecca Klee has been named a finalist for the Inspiring Women in Export Award.

Animals Like Us has its headquarters in Hastings and manufactures its dog and cat food products, through a contractor in Waipukurau.

The company decided early on to target supermarkets as opposed to solely selling in pet stores, which Achten said was rare for premium pet food.

“About 75 per cent of pet food is sold in supermarkets but most of it is at the budget end,” he said.

“People said that is not going to work [selling our product in supermarkets] it is just way too expensive. But two and a half years on we are in over 300 supermarkets in New Zealand and we are also in the very best pet stores as well.”

Pet food giant Ziwi also operates out of Hawke’s Bay, having opened its $85 million mega kitchen in Awatoto last year, and Achten said the region “is becoming a good hub in terms of raw material supplies”.

Klee said it was an honour to be recognised as a finalist for the Inspiring Women in Export Award.

“It’s hard to believe that we are not quite three years in and what we have achieved,” she said.

“To be nominated alongside someone like Sally [Gallagher, from The Apple Press] is really humbling.”

Animals Like Us was co-founded by Achten, Jeremy Moon and Craig Hickson.

2023 ExportNZ ASB Hawke’s Bay Export Awards finalists

Best Emerging Business: Animals Like Us (Hastings), Senator Boats (Napier), Wisewool (Gisborne) Rare New Zealand (Hastings) and Nibblish (Havelock North)

Excellence in Innovation: Prevar (Havelock North), T&G Global (Hastings), StardustME (Gisborne) and Animals Like Us (Hastings)

Best Established Business: Pultron Composites (Gisborne), Metalform (Dannevirke) and Fingermark (Havelock North)

Inspiring Women in Export Award: Anna Holdsworth (Pultron Composites), Sally Gallagher (The Apple Press), Rebecca Klee (Animals Like Us), and Sue de Bievre (Beany)

The winners of each business category will contest the supreme award of ASB Exporter of the Year and will automatically go to the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) International Business Awards in Auckland in November.

Last year’s ASB Exporter of the Year was Rockit Global from Hastings.


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