If you happened to frequent Duboce Park in the Lower Haight in 2015, you might have encountered a trio of volunteers passing out samples of dog food. And not just any dog food, but recently cooked dog food using fresh and healthy ingredients, like carrots, spinach, brown rice, and fish oil.
Fast-forward to 2017 and that dog food pilot test is now a full-fledged, doctor-approved, subscription dog food company called Nom Nom Now that partners with adoption agencies across California. Based out of Oakland, Nom Nom Now ships one week’s worth of meals — which come in five flavors: Heartland Beef Mash, Tasty Turkey Fare, Chicken Chow-Wow, Porkalicious Potluck, and Egg and Veggie Medley — to pooches in eight states across the U.S. Put another way, it’s like Blue Apron for K-9s, except it’s precooked and less expensive.
Not that the trio behind Nom Nom Now planned it that way.
“I don’t think any of us expected to be cooking and selling dog food for a living,” says Nom Nom Now co-founder Nate Phillips, who was a developer for Google before switching careers.
It all started when Nate, his brother Zach, and his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Alex, decided to adopt dogs in 2014. Though the two brothers had grown up with dogs, it had been at least two decades since either had owned one, thanks to college, graduate school, and work.
Unsurprisingly, they did not leave empty-handed and came home with two Australian Shepherd puppies, which they named Harlee and Mim. The next thing they did was pay a visit to a pet store to stock up on food, and it was then that Nate realized “the pet food industry had barely changed since the 1980s. It was still basically all kibble in cans, listed with indecipherable ingredients and generic feeding instructions.”
Over the next few months, as they exposed their pups to the sites, sounds, and smells of San Francisco, they discovered they weren’t the only ones disgruntled with the available dog food options.
“The way most pet food is sold now is in a very top-down model,” Nate says. “A few big companies make most of the food, which gets made in huge manufacturing plants in the Midwest. It’s up to the consumers to figure out what they’re actually feeding their dog.”
When Zach’s dog got sick and had to be put on a fresh-food diet, the founders started thinking about creating their own alternative food source. With help from Dr. Justin Shmalberg, a clinician and professor at the University of Florida’s Small Animal Hospital, they developed the brand’s current five recipes, which Nate says are specially tailored to fit each dog’s dietary needs, wants, and desires.
“When someone signs up, we ask for information about the dog, which helps us understand their health risks and portioning,” Nate says. “We literally portion each meal down to the gram based on each dog’s weight and dietary needs.”
In terms of taste, each dish is dog-approved, and it’s not uncommon for Nom Nom Now to hear from customers about how much their dogs love the food or look forward to meal time. Other feedback they get is that dogs have more energy, as well as shinier coats, brighter eyes, and less compulsion to itch. And then there are the long-term benefits.
Because the meals are healthier and customized to each dog (say a dog has kidney issues, weight problems, or is prone to developing pancreatitis), Nom Nom Now helps mitigate visits to the vet. In other words, you might be spending more money buying Nom Nom Now than you would a regular ol’ can of wet dog food, but in the long run, you’ll be saving yourself a helluva lot of money in unnecessary vet bills.
Use code NOM50P to get half off your first order; nomnomnow.com
Check out more stories from the Beasts and Birds of S.F.:
When Pigs (Almost) Fly
A day in the life of LiLou, the first non-canine animal to be part of SFO’s Wag Brigade.
Pets Lap Up Luxury at Wag Hotels
Meanwhile, nearby homeless languish in poverty.
Hangin’ With Officer Edith
Animal Care and Control is a tough beat, but one semi-anonymous city employee’s social media accounts reveal unflagging dedication.
Pimp My Pup
Yap Stores in Ghirardelli Square makes hip and comfy threads for dogs.
The Birds, Beasts, and Snakes of San Francisco
Because humans aren’t the only creatures living in the Bay Area.