Beyond burger for Bingo: Twin Cities entrepreneur pitches vegan pet treats
A Twin Cities entrepreneur wants to make sustainably minded tails wag with vegan treats for dogs.
The big picture: Popularity of plant-based "meat" products for humans, such as Beyond Burgers, have skyrocketed in recent years.
- As founder of Bright Planet Pets, Katherine Ellison is expanding those offerings to four-legged companions with her treats that mimic meat.
Her pitch: Ellison, a pet food industry veteran, said she saw an opportunity to "get ahead of the trend" as consumers look for "very small changes" that can lower their carbon footprint and help protect the planet's future.
- "Something that we know is true for both ourselves and our pets is that when we look into the future, we will all be eating less meat," she told Axios.
Driving the taste buds: Because dogs make decisions with their noses, Bright Planet Pet uses a proprietary plant-based ingredient mix to give the burger, BBQ chicken and brat-flavored treats a meat-like taste and "yummy grill aroma."
Reality check: While dogs are omnivores — many pet foods already include grains or vegetables — they need a much bigger share of their diet to come from protein than we do.
- That would make it difficult to meet their nutritional needs with an all-vegetarian diet, said Julie Churchill, a board certified veterinary nutritionist who teaches and treats patients at the University of Minnesota.
Churchill said while dogs don't necessarily need plant-based snacks that "taste" like meat, she doesn't see a problem with doling out the treats to adult dogs in moderation.
- Yes, but: She'd be cautious about giving them to growing puppies without more information about the nutritional profile.
State of sales: Necessary or not, initial sales show some demand from owners. Bright Planet Pets sold about 15,000 bags of treats, which are priced at about $10, last year. This year, the goal is 100,000.
- In the coming weeks, product will soon be in 1,000 stores, including Petco and Hy-Vee.
Between the lines: The booming pet product industry has been growing rapidly thanks to an increase in adoptions during the pandemic. Americans spent $103.6 billion on pets in 2020.
- Ellison said her product is targeted toward "millennial and Gen Z pet parents" who want to purchase products that resonate with their values.
How she got here: Ellison, who has three dogs of her own, said she came up with the idea before the pandemic, but an April 2020 layoff gave her the time and motivation to focus on launching the business.
- She and her husband boot-strapped the startup, with the help of a $10,000 Kickstarter drive. They're raising a seed round now.
What's next: Ellison, who was recently admitted to pet care startup accelerator Leap Venture Studio, is delivering a live pitch at the Global Pet Expo Thursday as a finalist for the grand prize in Purina's Pet Care Innovation contest.
The bottom line: Churchill said pet owners should be careful about going overboard on calorie-laden treats, regardless of the ingredients.
- And those looking to add more veggies to Fido's bowl can probably find a cheaper, healthier and even more sustainable option in their crisper drawer.
Her own dog's go-to plant-based snack? Asparagus stalks.
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