An Em-Bark-Ing Trend
Consumers have been seeking healthier options for their pets for the past few years, and, in 2017, the once niche pet food subscription industry began rapidly gaining prominence.
Natural pet food consists of organic ingredients free from synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial coloring, and other harmful chemical by-products. They offer many health benefits, such as boosting immunity, reducing ailments and allergies, easing digestion, extending life expectancy, and helping pets maintain a healthy weight.
“The increasing demand for organic and natural pet food can be attributed to the growing number of pet ownerships coupled with rising consumer awareness towards pet health,” concluded an industry report published this year, titled, “Organic and Natural Pet Food Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2020-2025.” “In line with this, the elevating consumer living standards supported by their increasing disposable income levels have propelled the per capita expenditures on premium pet care products.”
As interest rose, venture capital firms began injecting millions of dollars, leading to a boom. In addition to the growing push toward healthy alternatives to normal dog food, shifting consumer habits played a role. Millions upon millions of people now take advantage of the convenience of subscription services, so customizable, human-grade pet food shipped directly to people’s doors became a very reasonable — and attractive — business model.
"As people’s awareness increases around what’s in traditional kibble and canned food and they want a better alternative, we think that that’s a real big market," said Gabby Slome, co-founder of New York-based Ollie, a direct-to-consumer premium pet food brand that uses a subscription model. Slome’s company is one of many to launch during this years-long boom.
Slome is right. It is a big market, generating billions of dollars per year — and appears poised to become even bigger. According to the “Organic and Natural Pet Food Market” report released in August, the market had an average annual growth rate of nearly 12% from 2014 to 2019. The pet food market, as a whole, had an estimated value of $86.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $90.4 billion in 2020. Organic pet food has been a driving force.
“Increasing consumer awareness regarding natural and organic pet food products has forced the manufacturers to shift their focus from synthetic to natural products which have acted as one of the major forces impacting the global market,” concluded Grand View Research in a paper published in September 2019. There are no specific findings on healthy pet food subscription services.
However, a testament to the success of this specific sector of the market is the sheer number of startups and companies that have popped up in the past few years, selling healthy dog food through a subscription model.
At this point, Ollie is a market leader, offering plans that start at just $3 per day, depending on the size of your dog. The system is, in fact, extremely clever. Ollie requests information on your dog’s size, age, weight, and health to devise specific recommendations for recipes and serving sizes. The food will then be delivered, along with a scoop for easy portioning and a “puptainer,” which helps keep the food fresh in the fridge after it’s been opened. Ollie stands out because of a recent rebrand and the thoroughness of its offerings.
Countless other options, with similarly sophisticated personalization and relatively affordable pricing, also populate the market. Here are some of the companies:
The Farmer's Dog
Price: Starts at $2 a day with free shipping.
The food is fresh, vet-approved blends of human-grade meat and vegetables, which are also customized based on your pet’s unique caloric and dietary needs.
Price: Starts at $3 a day.
Fresh, vet-certified blends of human-grade meats, vegetables, and fruits are kettle-cooked in a USDA facility and distributed to customers based on their dog’s personal information. This food also comes with recyclable plastic tubs.
Nom Nom Now
Price: $20 a week.
The food is “restaurant-quality” blends of meats and vegetables. What’s unique about this brand is that the food comes pre-portioned for your specific dog.
Price: $6.95 a week.
This company sells kibble, each serving of which is made with US-sourced, high-quality ingredients designed to comprise the perfect balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins. Crafted Kibble’s food is also pre-portioned and crafted to your dog’s dietary profile.
Price: Around $15 per month, or up, based on the size of your dog.
This company offers higher-quality dog kibble, wet food, and treats that are free from artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors. Food will be catered to your dog’s protein, fat, fiber, and nutrient needs.
Price: $24.99 per month.
The food is hand-crafted kibble containing high-quality grain-free ingredients and useful vitamins. This product’s standout feature is that your food comes with a toy, treat, and bowl and scoop set.
These companies have been so successful because they know their target customers and have learned how to market to them. Pets serve as emotional stimuli that create positive feelings about brands and products, a benefit that pet brands can take advantage of to the extreme. As a result, pet brands, like those mentioned above, use social media, as well as traditional advertising, to create stronger emotional connections with potential customers.
Due to the market’s significant growth in the past few years, compounded with continued interest in health and animals, the pet subscription business industry is predicted to continue moving onward and upward. Whether you’re a customer, investor, or entrepreneur, you can hopefully take advantage of the wave.
About the Author
Jemima is a journalist who enjoys reporting on business, particularly small business and entrepreneurship.