Mick Fanning enters dog food business
Exclusive: With the same grit and instinct that saw him survive a shark attack three years ago, Australian surfer Mick Fanning has entered the dog food business.
The three-time world champion has invested in a local start-up, called Scratch, which is 100 per cent Australian-owned, after seeing the difference its range made to his dog Harper.
He told News Corp he gave Scratch's co-founders Michael Halligan and Doug Spiegelhauer a one-off cash injection to grow their business because he believed it was a "good quality product".
"Harper has sensitive skin and I had been talking to the vet back and forth, but as soon as we trialled Harper on Scratch, the results were so much better than anything else we'd tried," he said.
"Once I fully committed to using it for a year, I then became part of the company.
"The guys who make it have always been honest from day one about what's in the food."
Mr Halligan told News Corp they decided to make Scratch together, using Mr Spiegelhauer's previous experience of working for one of the larger dog food manufacturers.
"We thought from the get-go what's missing in the pet food industry is trust, people are turning away from some of the bigger multinational brands," he said.
"There have been more pet food recalls and we started the hard way putting in our own money with friends and family.
"Mick has come along at a beautiful point where our annual revenue rate is in the millions."
The pair have between 3000-4000 regular customers across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania who buy their ethically and locally sourced food.
Fanning's contribution helps them meet the demand which is growing 20-30 per cent a month. It will also help them expand to Western Australia.
Scratch is a grain-free option with a high-protein recipe made from Australian meat.
Grain-free pet food has been scrutinised globally for its effect on animals. America's Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating popular brands.
But the start-up was recently chosen to be part of Melbourne University's Accelerate program where they got $20,000 equity-free funding and business support.
Scratch's website states it complies with the current Australian Standard for Manufactured Pet Food, known as AS 5812.
For any pet food, this is voluntary, unenforceable and doesn't appear on all labels.
"We have had an animal nutritionist on board ... we are also bringing on our own vet next year and we offer a money-back guarantee for those who trial it," he said.
"We test our food in Australia and send it off to university labs in the US, we test every batch."
Pet owners are warned they should seek professional advice when changing a dog's diet, as they can develop allergies to different animal proteins at various stages in life.
The Australian Veterinary Association states on its website there is no scientific evidence to prove grain-free diets are better and the growing number of these products "gives the misperception that grain is bad for pets".
It also states there are now concerns about a potential link between dogs eating grain-free dog food and a rare heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.
Vets Online CEO Dr Leigh Davidson told News Corp: "When considering a change in diet it is important to consult with your veterinarian or qualified nutritionist.
"They will help select a food that meets your pet's nutritional needs during different life stages, activity level, body condition and if there are any medical conditions."
Dr Davidson also said grains are an uncommon cause of food allergies, as most pets are allergic to some animal proteins.
"Grain free does not automatically mean hypo-allergenic," she said.
"What's more, it can mean different things to different manufacturers."