Pet food goes plant-based as investors including Mark Cuban line up


Plant-based meat merchandise have made their means into grocery shops, eating places, and onto kitchen tables thanks largely to Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

Now your pet’s food bowl is the subsequent place you would possibly discover plant-based merchandise.

Pet possession and spending has boomed within the U.S. amid the pandemic. Seventy p.c of Americans, or roughly 90.5 million properties, now personal a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. That represents an all-time excessive and is up from 67% of households in 2020.

In 2020, $103.6 billion was spent within the U.S. on pet-related services, a 6.5% year-over-year enhance, in response to the APPA.

The largest portion of that expenditure is on pet food and treats, which totaled $42 billion, up 9.7% year-over-year. Not solely was that enhance pushed by new pet homeowners, but additionally by individuals simply spending extra on their pets — 30% of pet homeowners mentioned they spent extra on their pet in 2020 than the earlier yr, whereas solely 10% mentioned they spent much less, in response to the APPA.

With extra customers selecting to eat plant-based merchandise for environmental and well being causes — gross sales of these merchandise are anticipated to attain a 30% compound annual progress price by 2025, according to a UBS report — the expectation is that they may make related selections for his or her pet’s food.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Your customers are plant-based vegans and vegetarians,’ and actually they’re not,” mentioned Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Wild Earth, an alternate protein pet food firm. “Our customers are people that care about, first and foremost, the health of their animals, and secondly about sustainability.”

Introducing plant-based meals to pets

“In the same way that Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have found that a majority of their customers are people that care about ESG, about climate change, about sustainability, about health — those are our customers too,” Bethencourt mentioned.

Wild Earth, which sells plant-based canine food and treats created from issues like dried yeast, chickpeas, oats, and pea proteins, noticed 700% progress from 2020 to 2021 and now has greater than 40,000 clients within the U.S., Bethencourt mentioned. The firm doesn’t disclose its income.

The firm initially gained recognition in 2019 when Bethencourt closed a cope with Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank.” It raised a further $11 million in a Series A a number of months later that included investors like Mars Petcare, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, vegan funding fund VegInvest, and Cuban.

Now, Wild Earth has closed a brand new $23 million funding spherical that once more included Cuban and VegInvest, as effectively as Big Idea Ventures, whose chief funding officer is former Beyond Meat board member Tom Mastrobuoni. Actor Paul Wesley and Bitburger Ventures, the enterprise arm of the eponymous German beer brewery, additionally invested on this most up-to-date spherical.

The firm will use the funding to supply new canine and cat meals, as effectively as develop beef, hen, and seafood cell-based meats, which goals to be extra sustainable and cruelty-free.

“Of the meat we consume in the U.S., 25% to 30% of it goes to our pets,” Bethencourt mentioned. “There’s this outdated perspective that the intestines and whatever else goes to our pets; that doesn’t happen anymore.”

“Entire factory farms are running to feed our pets, and it just makes no sense to make little brown balls of protein if we can make it with plants,” he mentioned.

Pet food producers see plant-based future

Other pet food producers are additionally seeing the chance for extra plant-focused merchandise.

Mars, which is an investor in Wild Earth and owns pet food manufacturers like Iams, Pedigree, and Whiskas, launched a “plant-first formula” in June referred to as Karma. While the product is marketed as having 60% of its elements coming from vegetation, it additionally consists of hen or white fish.

Nestlé, which produces pet food merchandise beneath the Purina model, launched a canine and cat food in Switzerland in 2020 that features proteins from vegetation as effectively as bugs. Mars is also launching a dry cat food made with black soldier fly larvae insect meal within the U.Okay., one of several bug protein-based foods currently in the works for pets.

Freshpet, which sells refrigerated canine and cat food, mentioned it can begin to produce a vegetarian canine food line that will likely be obtainable at Petco places this yr.

Bethencourt mentioned that he expects General Mills, which owns pet food firm Blue Buffalo, may even have a plant-based pet product within the subsequent two years.

It’s a development that he does not see slowing down as lengthy as the identical factor is occurring on eating room and restaurant tables throughout the U.S.

“The same consumers who are buying Beyond or Impossible burgers are the same people who are switching their pets over to plant-based diets,” he mentioned.

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