After a nearly two-year hiatus, Marsh Dog—the Baton Rouge company that produces dog treats made from nutria meat—has returned to stores with three new products.
The products include two soft treats—a grain-free cranberry recipe and a brown rice and sweet potato recipe—as well as a crunchy treat made with a blueberry recipe. The all-natural Marsh Dog treats are made using wild nutria meat as the No. 1 ingredient, in an effort to support wetlands conservation.
The company, founded in 2012, inked a deal with a national manufacturer two years ago and ceased production while it transitioned from making treats in-house to producing them in a major production facility, along with redesigning the packaging.
The idea behind the product redesign was to allow Marsh Dog to scale up and expand beyond Louisiana, where it has been well received. To make it happen, the company had to change its recipes, making them easier to manufacture, with a longer shelf life.
“It’s been a long and winding road,” says Veni Harlan, who co-founded Marsh Dog with siblings Hansel Harlan and Gretel Harlan Kelly. “Not being pet food industry people, it’s been a learning curve. The unique protein of wild nutria meat presented different challenges.”
Hansel Harlan originally conceived the idea for the company after learning about the damage nutria cause to marsh grasses and reading about how an expensive state campaign to promote nutria consumption proved ineffective. In search of meat to feed his allergy-prone dog, he began to toss around the idea of a business making nutria-based dog treats to contribute to wetland conversation through nutria consumption.
In the years following, demand grew rapidly for Marsh Dog products, which were sold in about 50 specialty stores and vet clinics statewide and online.
The new products are slowly making their way back to those stores, Veni Harlan says. Customers can find them in independent pet stores, such as Neighborhood Pet Market in Baton Rouge, rather than the big box retailers. The dog treats are now shelf-stable, she says, allowing Marsh Dog to scale production.
“Now our push is to go out of state, particularly to the coastal areas,” Harlan says. “We’re targeting areas in California where they’re having a nutria outbreak. We hope to hit some pet stores in those areas that have nutria, as well as our neighboring coastal states.”