Upcycling Dog Treats Into Sustainable Snacks With eCommerce

Upcycling Dog Treats Into Sustainable Snacks

To enable pet owners to feed their dogs snacks sourced from sustainable ingredients, innovators are upcycling products that might go to waste. Shameless Pets, in one case, offers an array of flavors from lobster to egg through its eCommerce website.

Co-founder James Bello initially worked at the headquarters of a major retail chain, and then moved to Boston to serve in their innovation group. He worked with food technologies to help “tackle big issues in the food system,” Bello told PYMNTS in an interview.

When as a buyer he saw the amount of food that was thrown away, Bello knew he wanted to tackle that challenge. He also happened to have a food-obsessed dog, so he decided to tackle food waste while also coming up with a new idea for pet food and treats. Bello connected with his co-founder and they got in touch with processors who were throwing out food or composting it through their connections. They were then able to figure out how to turn those products into usable food that is healthy for pets to eat and that has functional properties as well.

Bello’s co-founder is a product developer, which means she is “well-versed at putting together recipes that work with manufacturing,” he noted. Combining that knowledge with Bello’s retail experience, they were able to get the product to market after completing the recipes and packaging. 

Today, Shameless Pets offers flavors such as Lobster Roll (Over). To make that variety, they work with lobster processors in New England and take the parts of the lobster that aren’t tails or claws. They also clean the lobster shell and grind it, which Bello noted is a natural source of glucosamine that helps to promote dogs’ hip and joint health. 

The company also has an egg recipe, which is created in tandem with egg breaking facilities (companies that make liquid egg products and don’t use the eggshell). Shameless Pets will clean and pasteurize the eggshell and grind it down, at which point it can be used as a calcium supplement for bone health. With another two varieties, the Afternoon Delight and Blueberry Treasure, the company works with a mix of farmers and processors to utilize imperfect produce.

The Market

Bello sees his company’s target market as “millennial-minded.” Its core group is couples and singles, but tends to skew more female. Bello said their demographic is essentially “groups who don’t have children at home, but who have dogs.” Those markets tend to lean toward both millennials and pre- to empty nesters whose dogs have become their companions.

Shameless Pets sells both in retail stores and online, and markets through social media. The company just marked its first anniversary; that initial year was spent focusing on supporting its retail partners to ensure a successful launch.

The company has recently been able to reallocate some of its efforts to grow its online presence, revamping its website and putting together a “Seasonal Saver Club.”

The one thing about upcycling, Bello noted, is that “there’s a lot of food waste” – 63 million tons of food are thrown away in the United States every year. Much of that produce, however, is either highly seasonal or highly localized.

Shameless Pets saw an opportunity to create an online club where consumers can select a flavor that the company knows it has a constant stream of supportive materials. Consumers can also receive a new flavor every month with their delivery. Beyond that, consumers can buy single bags of the variety packs.

Bello said the company’s goal is to essentially be “the waste-fighting brand across pet care.” First, it aims to tackle food waste with dog treats and dog food. Next, it plans to move into cat food and toys. Apparel is another area of interest, as that industry has a lot of waste, Bello said. He sees an opportunity to make fun dog clothes and leashes out of upcycled materials with the goal of helping pups (and their owners) live a little more sustainably.