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

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

Plant-based meat products made their way into grocery stores, restaurants, and kitchen tables, largely thanks to meat and impossible foods.

Now your pet’s food bowl is the next place you can find herbal products.

Pet ownership and spending has exploded in the United States amid the pandemic. According to the American Pet Products Association, seventy percent of Americans, or about 90.5 million households, now own a pet. This represents a record high and is up from 67% of households in 2020.

According to the APPA, in 2020, $ 103.6 billion was spent on pet-related products and services in the United States, an increase of 6.5% year-over-year.

The bulk of that spending is on pet food and treats, totaling $ 42 billion, up 9.7% year-over-year. Not only is this increase due to new pet owners, but also to people spending more on their pets: 30% of pet owners reported spending more on their pets in 2020 than year before, while only 10% said they spent less, according to the APPA.

According to a report from UBS, with more and more consumers consuming herbal products for environmental and health reasons – sales of these products are expected to reach a compound annual growth rate of 30% by 2025 – they should do the same. can make decisions. their pet’s food.

“A lot of people think, ‘Your customers are vegetarians and plant-based vegans,’ and in fact they’re not,” said Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Wild Earth, an alternative protein food company for pets. “Our customers are people who care first and foremost about the health of their animals, and secondly about sustainability. “

Introducing Plant Based Pet Foods

“In the same way that Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have discovered that most of their customers are people concerned with ESG, climate change, sustainability, health – they are also our customers,” says Bethencourt. he said.

Bethencourt said Wild Earth, which is made from plant-based dog food and elements like dried yeast, chickpeas, oats and pea protein, has grown by 700%. from 2020 to 2021 and now has more than 40,000 customers in the United States. The company does not disclose its turnover.

The company was first recognized in 2019 when Bethencourt struck a deal with Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank”. He raised an additional $ 11 million in a Series A several months later, which included investors such as Mars Petcare, Peter Thiel’s founders’ fund, vegetarian investment fund VegInvest and Cuba.

Now Wild Earth has closed a new $ 23 million funding round that again includes Cuban and WedgeInvest, as well as Big Idea Ventures, whose chief investment officer is former Beyond Meat board member Tom Mastrobuni. Actors Paul Wesley and Bitburger Ventures, the venture capital arm of the German brewery, have also invested in this latest round.

The company will use the funds to produce new dog and cat foods, as well as to develop cell-based beef, chicken and seafood meats, which are intended to be more sustainable and cruelty-free.

“Of the meat we eat in America, 25 to 30% goes to our pets,” Bethencourt said. “There is this old view that the intestines and everything that goes with our pets don’t do it anymore.”

“Entire factory farms are working to feed our pets, and there’s no point in making little brown scoops of protein if we can do it with plants,” he said.

Animal feed producers see a green future

Other pet food producers are also seeing opportunities for more plant-based products.

Mars, which is an investor in Wild Earth and owns pet food brands like Iams, Pedigree and Whiskas, in June launched a “plant-based formula” called Karma. If the product is marketed because 60% of its ingredients are of plant origin, it also includes chicken or white fish.

Nestlé, which manufactures pet food under the Purina brand, launched dog and cat food in Switzerland in 2020 that contains plant and insect proteins. Mars is also launching a dry cat food in the UK made from insect meal from Black Soldier fly larvae, one of several insect protein foods currently in use for pets.

FreshPet, which sells refrigerated dog and cat food, has announced that it will begin production of a line of vegetarian dog foods that will be available in Petco stores this year.

Bethencourt said he expects General Mills, owner of pet food company Blue Buffalo, to have an herbal product for pets as well within the next two years.

It’s a trend he doesn’t see slowing down until the same is happening in dining rooms and restaurant tables across America.

“The same consumers who buy Beyond or Impossible Burgers are the same people who switch their pets to a plant-based diet,” he said.

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