Long before Smalls Co-founder and CEO Matt Michaelson decided to help start a pet food company that caters to cats, he grew up with self-employed parents and had an itch to build. His family had always owned cats and dogs, and when he fell into the eCommerce startup world in New York City, he decided to take a look at the pet food industry. Michaelson told PYMNTS in an interview that he started “thinking deeper about what cats are eating.”
Michaelson noticed that everyone in the pet industry thinks of dogs first. He felt that cats deserved a little more attention within the startup community. Most cat food is not as healthy as it could be, he noted. Michaelson ended up co-founding Smalls, which delivers healthy, real-food recipes carefully formulated for cats, directly to the pet owner’s door.
Selection and Shopping
As Michaelson said, “we understand that cats can be pretty picky.” With that in mind, Smalls aimed to give people options and to support ultra-healthy foods. It also wanted to bring products to market at an affordable price point.
Smalls offers many different types of foods. According to the company, its wet food is “as close to nature as it comes; the high protein and moisture content is based on what your cat would eat if hunting in the wild.” They also offer freeze-dried food that provides the benefits of a raw, high-protein diet along with the crunch that many cats prefer. Smalls says protein is the “main ingredient” in the kibble, and keeps “the filler and grains away.”
Ordering and Customer Care
To start the ordering process, customers share information about their cats, such as their age, what kind of food they eat and their build (“slender” to “extra cuddly”). The consumer also shares how much they want to spend on cat food, ranging from “sparing no expense” to “budget-friendly.”
Next, Smalls presents a couple of different meal plans with a variety of prices and food types. Customers can then sign up for a sample kit, which Michaelson says has a “cat-friendly orientation.” Consumers can try a mix of small sample sizes in different flavors and textures to see which ones their cats prefer, and can then order their favorites. When it comes to payments, the company accepts standard credit cards as well as Apple Pay.
The company has innovated in the area of customer communication, as it conducts 80 percent of interaction via text. This allows customers to have a “24/7 cat concierge” at their service. When it comes to the company’s target market, Michaelson said Smalls caters to people who celebrate the weirdness and uniqueness of cats. The second part of that market includes people who are signed up for subscription meal plans (for humans) and care about what they are eating themselves.
If someone is thinking about what ingredients go into their food, Michaelson said, that person is likely to consider that for their pets as well.
The Pet Food Market
When it comes to the timing for a company like Smalls, Michaelson noted that dogs are getting all of the attention, while cats are getting left behind in terms of food options. In the dog space, as previously covered by PYMNTS, multiple brands are offering owners the chance to buy food customized to their pets’ needs.
The Farmer’s Dog, for instance, sells freshly cooked dog food based on a customized, pre-portioned feeding plan. The service then distributes the meals to consumers through a subscription business model. Pet Plate, another pet food offering, is based on the profile of each dog. “We develop a meal plan that fits to that dog’s age, weight, breed [and] lifestyle,” Pet Plate CEO Gertrude Allen told PYMNTS in a previous interview. And Grocery Pup’s meals are cooked with the sous-vide method, which fills BPA-free vacuum-sealed bags with raw ingredients and then immerses the bags in water to cook the food.
With a focus on cats, Smalls brings personalization and delivery to a pet food space that seems to be currently dominated by dog-focused offerings.