Some entrepreneurs find inspiration in their pets: Ruth Stedman Marriott helped start Grocery Pup with her husband when they got their dog. They wanted to get her a fresh food diet but “she never took to raw,” Marriott, the company’s co-founder and CEO, told PYMNTS in an interview. There weren’t essentially any cooked food options out there, and Marriott said it seemed to be made sense to solve this gap in the market. Consumers can buy raw when they go to stores, but owners might have to go back to processed food if they (or their dogs) don’t like raw. “Cooked food is just starting to emerge,” Marriott said.
Grocery Pup sells its fresh-prepared human-grade food for dogs from its eCommerce website, and shoppers can buy its products one of two ways. If consumers are new to the product, the company offers a sampler pack or duo packs that they can order on a one-time basis. However, Marriott noted that customers will typically opt for a subscription after they try the food. Those subscriptions are based on a dog’s weight and run the gamut from dogs weighing less than 9 pounds to dogs that are 75 to 88 pounds. For payments, the company offers standard credit cards as well as PayPal and Amazon Pay when it comes to express checkouts.
The Cooking Method
The company’s meals are cooked with the sous-vide method, through which it fills BPA-free vacuum-sealed bags with raw ingredients and then immerses the bags in water to cook the food. As a result, the food retains a lot of its moisture. “It’s not being dried out,” Marriott said, adding that could happen with the cooking of food in large batches. In all, Marriott says this method can retain 20 to 40 percent more of the nutrients when it comes to veggies and meat. They don’t have anywhere to go because the bag is sealed. However, they are typically leached out into the water when people cook.
In addition, Grocery Pup offers its products in brick-and-mortar stores in addition to its website. Marriott believes that at the retail level it’s easier to give consumers samples and have them directly engage with the sales staff to learn more about the food. Marriott said the company has found that it is a good educational channel for consumers. And, beyond the brick-and-mortar stores and its website, the company’s products are available on Jet.com for same-day delivery in New York as well. (As it stands, Jet.com has been broadening its selection and rolling out same-day delivery in the Big Apple.)
The company generally gets people who are health-conscious and want fresh food that isn’t processed for their dogs. Many people cook at home for their dogs; Marriott’s pitch is that by purchasing food from Grocery Pup, they can have the convenience of not having to cook all the time along with peace of mind because the recipes are nutritionally balanced. As it stands, the company says that a veterinarian-nutritionist developed each recipe. (The company offers recipes that include meats such as beef, pork and turkey.)
The Pet Food Market
At the same time, food for humans has evolved over the last 15 years toward less processed food and more transparency in the supply chain. “People are now starting to want that for their dog as well,” Marriott said, noting that people are humanizing their dogs and seeing them as members of their families. And a study found that 31 percent of pet owners cook at home for their pets now, according to Marriott. “We want to be a product that’s really enabling those people to feed that type of food more conveniently,” Marriott said, noting, “cooking at home for your dog is a big-time commitment.”
Beyond Grocery Pup, The Farmer’s Dog also makes meals for pets using “human-grade USDA ingredients” and was started after its co-founder couldn’t find a way to solve his dog’s stomach ailments. Moreover, Ollie, which prepares fresh food for dogs based on a plan tailored specifically to them, was started after its co-founder went on a wild goose chase talking to vets in search of a better diet for her dog. These companies come to suggest that dogs aren’t only man’s best friend: They can also be an inspiration for pet food startups, too.