Dogs are OUR BEST FRIENDS Let’s take care of their HEALTH

Zorro and Choko

The following article was born out of wanting to help other dog owners whose dogs struggle with stomach issues.

I am the proud owner of two Labradors – Zorro (14.5) and Choko (11). We have visited our vet Dr. Alexa many times due to their stomach issues. We tried many different dog food types and brands, some of which were expensive, and even tried mixing a few different types together, untill ten years ago, when the owner of the shop where I purchase their food recommended the Czech-produced BRIT brand, manufactured by VAFO. The dogs loved the food and I loved the results – their stomach issues disappeared. Even today, they eat ‘BRIT for Senior Dogs’ and we are all happy.

A few days ago, I learned that VAFO will soon be selling their food (including the BRIT product line) in the US too, and so this article was created. I wanted to share this with other dog owners who were dealing with similar issues but weren’t able to get a hold of this dog food in the United States.

I wish VAFO a lot of success in the US, and a long and healthy life to all dogs around the world.

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VAFO to become sustainable – the largest czech pet food manufacturer has big plans

When František Bouška founded the pet food company VAFO in 1994, he probably had no idea how successful it would become in 28 years. VAFO is a family firm, managed by his son Pavel, which has grown into a company that is incredibly successful in the Czech and European markets. VAFO plants in European countries produce 180,000 tonnes of pet food annually, which is then exported to more than 85 countries around the world. Now, the company is setting its sights on the other side of the Atlantic, to the biggest pet food market in the world.

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VAFO is taking important steps to secure a licence to enter new markets. The firm is currently working on obtaining the strict certification needed to export to the USA for its most modern plant in Číčenice. At the end of March, VAFO representatives will take part in Global Pet Expo, the largest American pet food trade fair in Florida, where thousands of companies present their diverse range of products.

The United States is not the only goal, though, and VAFO expects growth in other markets as well. In 2021, the company saw a 21% growth in revenues, and it plans to achieve at least the same level of growth in 2022 – though the company has to increase its production capacity to satisfy all of its customers’ demands. VAFO is building a new manufacturing plant in the Finnish city of Nokia that will be finished in the first quarter of 2023. This plant, which will cost more than 350 million CZK, will process local raw materials and employ more than 25 people. Additionally, VAFO increased production in its other European plants last year. In VAFO’s Czech plants, production went up by 30% in comparison to 2020, and the Polish Carry Pet Food Trzebielino and the Estonian Pandivere rose even more, by 45%.

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One of VAFO’s most important goals is to make sure that its products are truly palatable to pets. To ensure this, the Číčenice plant in the Strakonice district has introduced a unique animal food processing technology that allows producing dry dog food containing 60% fresh meat. The remaining 40% is made up of vegetables, fruits, herbs and other “superfoods” (e.g. spirulina, sea buckthorn) beneficial to animal health. The premium quality is ensured in particular by a thermal twin extruder manufactured by the American company Wenger, which gently heat-treats raw materials and allows product identity monitoring whilst reducing energy consumption. (picture 1 and 2)

VAFO’s production programme also takes into account environmental concerns – sustainability is one of its priorities. The company aims to reduce CO2 emissions in all of its production processes, use up to 95% recyclable materials in its packaging, process 50% more sustainable raw materials, and encourages its employees to behave in an environmentally responsible way.

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What are some practical examples? Solar panels have been installed at the Trzebielino production plant in Poland (picture 4), and wastewater from the sterilisation process is being recycled in Pandivere, Estonia. In 2022, VAFO also plans to reduce imports of raw materials from third countries, which will eliminate 240 tonnes of CO2 annually, an equivalent to about 2,000,000 kilometres driven by a car. The pet food will become increasingly planet-friendly as VAFO has began introducing animal treats containing insect protein (picture 5), whose environmental impacts are much lower than production from, for example, beef, pork or vegetable proteins. The employees make every effort to go fully digital, getting rid of any unnecessary printing.

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For example, at the last ZOOMARK fair, VAFO did not use a single piece of printed promotional material; all information was accessible electronically by scanning a QR code. (picture 3)

Text: M. Zisso; Photo: Archive