The Investigation Begins…
If you’d asked me 2 months ago what I picture when I hear “dog food,” the answer would have been bags of kibble. But lately, the universe has been urging me to reconsider. It feels like everywhere I look, I’m being hit with ads for fresh dog food. On TV, targeted Instagram posts, subway ads, and of course all over TikTok. Suddenly, the food I’ve been serving my black lab Sadie seem pitiful and unappetizing. So, I made like Sadie herself and decided to do some digging.
After combing through Reddit, scrolling comments, and binge-reading articles, I pared down the brand names I saw to the four most highly-rated options: The Farmer’s Dog, Nom Nom, Ollie, and Spot & Tango. Then, I compared them side-by-side. By the end, I was sure I’d found the best option—and Sadie definitely seems to agree. Now let’s get into the meat of it!
Leveling the Playing Field
First, let’s get the similarities out of the way so that we can get into the nitty-gritty of differentiations. Each brand enables the customer to personalize a meal plan for their pet according to their preferences, physique, and needs. They also share a business model which offers a subscription delivery for the food. Obviously, buying food for your pets is like buying groceries for yourself… it happens at a pretty regular frequency, and these shipment plans account for that. Plus, for all customers living in the contiguous US, shipping is free.
Each of these dog food brands have recipes including both meat and vegetables, and they meet the high standard of quality set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Additionally, all four brands developed their recipes with the help of veterinary nutritionists… and that’s where the similarities end.
I’ll start here, because cost was the point that had me most concerned. When I started seeing phrases like “whole foods” and “human grade” during my research, I panicked a bit. I’m not exactly a big spender when it comes to my own food, so I could only imagine the dent in my savings that this kind of luxurious dog food might make.
The price was difficult to compare because each brand offers different plans with wet and/or dry food, full and/or half portions, and differently priced meat options. I took a quiz for each brand, so I’ll compare the most and least expensive options that they recommended for my Sadie. Spot & Tango’s Recommended Plan came in as the most pricey, at $84.69/week, and The Farmer’s Dog was the lowest for a fully-fresh plan at $53.62 per week. Again, I realized that this is a difficult metric to compare given the multitude of customizations that cause prices to adjust. The cheapest option from Ollie, for example, was the Half Fresh Plan for just $41.30 per week (and Nom Nom’s version of the same thing was even cheaper, at $40.88/week).
Now, for the exciting stuff. Sadie doesn’t understand costs or shipping, but she knows what tastes good. That’s why variety and depth of flavor is so important to me. Maybe it’s just me, but given the choice between more and less choices, I’ll always go with more. Ollie has five wet fresh food flavors, more than any of the other brands I looked at. Both The Farmer’s Dog and Nom Nom have four wet food flavors, and Spot & Tango has only three.
As for dry food, Spot & Tango came in first with four flavor options, while Ollie offers two. The others don’t offer any dry food. Something that bothered me about The Farmer’s Dog was that I couldn’t peruse their recipes on my own. Only after taking their quiz was I given the option to forgo their suggestion and pick my own recipes for Sadie: either Turkey, Beef, Chicken, or Pork.
For me, Ollie’s wide variety of fresh food protein options gave them an edge over the other brands, and I loved how they offer the option to add on supplements and treats, too.
Quality of Production Behind-the-Scenes: Ollie
Remember when I mentioned “human grade” dog food? Well, The Farmer’s Dog and Ollie are both that. Pretty impressive. You can literally see each ingredient listed on the label, instead of the brown pellets or mush full of fillers that so many dog food brands consider “food.”
On that note, I was actually a little surprised to see dry food as an option from fresh dog food brands. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? I wondered. Turns out, it doesn’t. At all. Ollie’s Baked food, for instance, is still made with whole ingredients and no additives. It’s not like it’s fried or made with a powder, either—Ollie Baked food is made in small batches and cooked slowly at low temperatures. None of the nutritional integrity is sacrificed, but it is more shelf stable and affordable (two wins in my book).
Who doesn’t love a little bonus? The worst kind of person, that’s who. I took careful note of the little details that each brand offers. Spot & Tango provides a food scoop with orders that is molded according to the volume of food that your dog, in particular, needs. They also have what they call a Happy Pup Guarantee, which means that in the first two weeks you try their food, if your dog doesn’t like it, just let them know and they’ll refund you. Similarly, Ollie’s starter boxes come with a scoop and a “Puptainer,” a storage solution for leftovers if you don’t use a whole pack at a time—and they have a 100% Money-Back Guarantee as well.
And of course, there’s nothing like a welcome promo. As of this writing, all four brands are offering 50% off your first order. Nom Nom also has a $20 starter pack, which caught my eye until I remembered that Spot & Tango and Ollie offer 100% money-back guarantees.
Bonus Section: Hype
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I am highly impressionable. When people share opinions with me, I listen and I listen well. So it was important to me to see what others had to say about each of these brands… from individual customers to publications.
The Farmer’s Dog has delivered over 100 million meals, which was a baffling number. Dog Food Advisor rated Nom Nom 5/5 stars. But most of the articles I found were praising fresh dog food in general, and not necessarily one brand of it. That is, until I got to Ollie. As Forbes wrote, “Ollie aims to not only reverse a looming stigma surrounding the industry, but establish an adoptable model of trust and transparency with pet parents.” What’s more, is Consumer Rating ranked Ollie the best Dog Food Subscription Service of 2024.
Sadie’s Eating Well With Ollie
In the end, I weighed each of these areas carefully and decided to move forward with… (drum roll!) Ollie. I really appreciate the fact that they not only offer both Fresh and Baked food, but also that you can order both at the same time. In that way, they’re extremely accommodating not only to Sadie’s preferences but also to my budget. When I crunched the numbers, Ollie was the second-cheapest option. The 50% off intro offer was another perk too, of course—it helped me ease into a rhythm of orders at a lower cost. In the end, I chose the Full Fresh plan, because when I compared the prices for the Half and Full plans, it made so much more sense to go all-in… I essentially saved $10 a week!
The number of options and perks that Ollie offers were monumental in helping to make my final decision. The entire process was sooo customizable, and I was beyond pleased to see that their quiz wasn’t a sham designed to push me toward their most expensive offerings. The option to include treats and/or supplements (I started out with the Probiotic Chews) was the icing on the cake. The rave reviews across the internet were the tipping point for me. I had to get in on what was obviously a beloved dog food brand—Sadie was counting on me. And boy, am I glad that I did.
Never Going Back (to Before Ollie) Again
We’re six weeks in, and if I thought Sadie was excited about her food before this, her love for Ollie meals is on another level. She RUNS into the kitchen when she hears me preparing her food, and scarfs it down in seconds. Almost immediately, I noticed a boost in her energy—but after a month I started to notice how much shinier her coat looked, which means I’m doing something right.
A few weeks after finally making my decision, I stumbled upon an article from the beloved dog walking app Rover. They ranked Ollie as the best fresh dog food on the market. To say I was excited was an understatement. Researching to make an informed decision is one thing, but to see your conclusion typed out in print?! All I can say is that Sadie and I are sticking with Ollie for the foreseeable future, no matter how many new options come onto the market.