Guillermo Goni is straight up about how he started Iceland Pure, a company dedicated to providing high quality fish oil for pets. And it wasn't some divine lightning bolt of inspiration.
"It was a pure coincidence; a chance meeting," he laughs, adding, "I didn't have any experience with pet products, and I knew nothing about industry regulations at the time."
Guillermo might call it coincidence. Others might call it fate.
It started when Lee, his wife at the time, went to a beauty shop called Nordic Salon to get her hair done. Lee started chatting with her stylist and soon discovered that her hairdresser's brother, Leifson, was visiting from Iceland. He ran a company that produced fish products for pets and was looking for an American distributor. As it turned out, Lee's husband, Guillermo, was in the import/export business. The two women discussed the situation and decided Guillermo and Leifson should meet.
The two men agreed to talk and Leifson gave Guillermo some samples to try on his own pups. "The dogs loved it," says Guillermo. Excited by his dogs' approval, he looked into the business and, discovering the profit margins were good, decided to get involved.
Starting with an exclusive agreement to market the company's products in the U.S., Guillermo eventually became the sole owner of Iceland Pure in 2007. The products, which are still sourced from Iceland and Norway, are now bottled in his warehouse in Vista, California, and the offerings have expanded to include a full line of canine fish oils, including salmon oil, sardine anchovy oil, and premier omega oil, as well as fish oils for cats and horses.
Although Guillermo began distributing fish products for the simple reason that his own dogs loved them, he soon discovered the life-enhancing effects of the oils, the benefits backed by a wealth of research. Fish oils are rich in fatty acids such as omega 6 and omega 3. While omega 6 is found naturally in food sources such as olive oil, omega 3 is less common and so it is important to supplement the diet with it. The health benefits are many. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, high quality fish oil can help dogs suffering from allergies because it reduces irritation and improves the coat. It also supports dogs suffering from heart disease because it reduces fatty acids, such as triglycerides, in the blood. And due to its anti-inflammatory properties, fish oil can help lessen the distress of pets experiencing arthritis and kidney disease. It can also fight cancer in dogs by slowing tumour growth and reducing weight loss from cachexia, a condition in which a dog loses both fat and muscle.
In addition to salmon oil and sardine anchovy oil, which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, Iceland Pure also produces shark liver oil, which, though it contains lesser amounts of omega 3s, has cancer-fighting substances such as alkylglycerols, squalamine, and squalene. These substances boost the immune system and decrease the side effects of conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
"If you add shark liver oil to the diet, it can protect the healthy cells," says Guillermo. He is quick to assure that Iceland Pure's shark liver oil is produced ethically because the shark species he uses (such as the Portuguese dogfish and the Leafscale Gulper Shark) are not endangered.
But for all the health-enhancing effects of his fish oils, Guillermo found his customers had one, perhaps unsurprising, complaint: After ingesting the fish oils, their dogs' breaths smelled, well, somewhat fishy. He looked at possible ways to negate the fishy smell and discovered other manufacturers added oils such as lemon or peppermint to mask the scent. "I thought there must be a better way to make the oils less smelly," explains Guillermo.
Using human-grade fish oils, he started investigating a process called "molecular distillation," which involves extracting oils at low temperatures for a short time (45 seconds as opposed to several hours) in a high vacuum. This ensures the health-enhancing components of the oil are not lost, reduces the possibility of creating harmful trans-fats during the process, and removes impurities such as heavy metals. It also has the important benefit of creating a "scent-free" product. Goodbye fishy-smelling dog kisses!
Not one to rest on his laurels, Guillermo next tackled his choice of containers. When he packaged his salmon oil in plastic bottles, he noticed the bottles shrunk after being filled. Guillermo soon learned the salmon oil was dissolving the chemicals in the plastic. He was troubled about the possibility of chemicals entering his oil and diminishing its quality. "I did not feel comfortable giving salmon oil in plastic bottles to my own dogs, so I started looking for an alternative," he explains.
Upon purchasing the company, he made the switch and began using aluminum bottles coated with an epoxy resin, which, once hardened, becomes glass-like, preserving the purity of the oil. Once again, his dogs had positively guided his decision-making. For Guillermo, if it's not good enough for his own dogs, he won't sell it. And as time has passed, he's become increasingly committed to educating others on supplementing their dogs' diet with omegas, having seen firsthand the difference it can make. "When I first started, many people did not understand the value of good nutrition," Guillermo says. "But a few small changes, like feeding a good diet and adding fish oils, can really help."
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