You may have noticed a new brand launched on PetJam recently, so we got in touch with the team to get the full details on what the brand is about and that all important question - why use Alpaca over other materials?! It's all below, over to you Niall from Snuggly Fox...
So Niall, where did Snuggly Fox all begin?
In a field in Suffolk when we bought our first alpacas. They need shearing every year and the finest fleeces can command high prices for use in yarns and textiles. Five years on and we found ourselves with bags of lower grade (but still wonderfully soft) fibre stored in the garage, wondering what on earth we could do with it. It is already used for pillows and duvets for humans, so we thought why not use it for pet beds as well. The rest, as they say, is history.
The big question for us is, are there any real benefits of using alpaca fibres in your products?
Absolutely. Alpaca fibre has several qualities that make it much better than other animal fibres. Unlike sheep wool it has no lanolin, so does not need treating with harsh chemicals. Other than being tumbled to remove any grit then picked to separate and 'fluff' the fibre, the filling that goes into our beds comes straight from the shearing table. Because of this, it repels dust mites and other organic matter that might trigger allergies in pets.
It’s incredibly warm too. In tests, alpaca fibre has been proven to be warmer than goose down and at least three times warmer than sheep's wool. For example, in a -17ºC environment it provides a 10ºC comfort range compared to -1ºC for sheep's wool. It’s also almost indestructible, as well as being virtually water repellent and resists odours much better than other fillings.
You say your products are 100% British - a fantastic achievement by the way! How do you locally source your products?
We have quite a stock of fibre from our own alpacas, so the fibre has literally travelled from the barn to the sewing room. We also have a network of local alpaca owners and breeders who we can obtain fibre from. It seemed sacrilege to take such a wonderful filling and cover it in cheap polyester-blend material that could have come from anywhere, so we chose to use only genuine Harris Tweed from the outer Hebrides, sourced either directly from the weaver or via mills. Each bed comes with the authenticity mark that only genuine Harris Tweed products can carry.
Do you make all the products yourself?
We process the fibre ourselves, but as demand has increased we now rely on local seamstresses to put the final products together – all to our customers’ high standards of course.
Snuggly Fox is a really interesting brand name. Is there a particular meaning or story behind this?
Most dogs adopt a curled up sleeping position which helps them conserve heat and protect themselves (it’s quicker for them to get up). This is usually referred to as the "snuggly fox" position, and it seemed to sum up our product very well. There's also an ironic connection with alpacas, who see foxes as predators against their young. For this reason, they are often kept to guard flocks of sheep and poultry.
Did you always intend to get into this pet business?
Nope, never. But we love animals of every shape and size. We have or have had alpacas, pygmy goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, cats, and dogs (and even an African snail called Onion).
So where about are you based in the UK? What are the highlights about where you are based?
We are located in Norfolk, just outside Norwich. We love it because, like our products, it’s still largely unspoilt by modern conveniences (like motorways!) We currently have a 3-acre smallholding which sustains our herd very well.
When not doing Snuggly Fox, what do you get up to in your spare time?
Snuggly Fox is a second job for both of us, so we don’t ever seem to have much spare time. Hopefully, one day it will be so successful that we can devote ourselves to it full-time.
Finally, we need to ask you about your adorable dog as we saw a fantastic picture on Instagram of him wearing a Harris Tweed hat, very cute! What's his name, breed, nature... you know the drill!
Ah yes, that’s Ralf our two-year-old Patterdale x Lakeland terrier. He’s a real character but played a pivotal role in us deciding our products might be something other people would want. After making our first prototype we put it down in front of the hearth and to our amazement, Ralf walked straight over to it, had a quick sniff, then settled himself down – in the snuggly fox position, of course! That’s when we knew we were on to something.
He sounds fantastic and thanks so much for talking with us today Niall. Don't forget to shop some of the Snuggly Fox products by heading over to our shop, or if you have any questions simply comment below or catch up on our social channels @wearepetjam. Chat soon!