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

Plant-based meat products have made their way into grocery stores, restaurants, and on kitchen tables thanks in large part to Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

Now your pet’s food bowl is the next place you might find vegan products.

Pet ownership and spending in the US have rebounded amid the pandemic. Seventy percent of Americans, or nearly 90.5 million homes, now own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. This represents an all-time high and is up from 67% of households in 2020.

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

The bulk of that spending was on pet food and sweets, which came in at $42 billion, up 9.7% year over year. This increase was not only driven by new pet owners, but also by people who spend more on their pets – 30% of pet owners said they spent more on their pets in 2020 compared to the previous year, while only 10% said They spent less, according to APPA.

As more consumers choose to eat plant-based products for environmental and health reasons — sales of these products are expected to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 30% through 2025, according to a UBS report — they are expected to make similar decisions about their pets’ food.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Your customers are vegans, and they really aren’t,'” said Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Wild Earth, an alternative pet food company. on sustainability.”

Introducing plant foods to pets

“In the same way that Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods has found, the majority of their customers are people who care about environmental, social and corporate governance, climate change, sustainability and health — those are our customers, too,” Bethencourt said.

Bethencourt said Wild Earth, which sells plant-based dog foods and treats made with things like dried yeast, chickpeas, oats and pea proteins, saw 700% growth from 2020 to 2021 and now has more than 40,000 customers in the United States. The company does not disclose its revenue.

The company initially gained recognition in 2019 when Bethencourt struck a deal with Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank.” It raised an additional $11 million in the first series several months later that included investors such as Mars Petcare, Peter Thiel Founders Fund, VegInvest, and Cuban.

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

The company will use the funding to produce new foods for dogs and cats, as well as develop cell-based beef, chicken and seafood, which aims to be more sustainable and cruelty-free.

“Of the meat we consume in the United States, 25% to 30% of it goes to our pets,” Bethencourt said. “There’s an outdated perspective that guts and whatever else goes into our pets; it just doesn’t happen anymore.”

“The entire factory farms are working to feed our pets, and it doesn’t make sense to make little brown balls of protein if we can make them with plants,” he said.

Pet food producers see a vegan future

Other pet food producers also see an opportunity for more plant-focused products.

Mars, an investor in Wild Earth that owns pet food brands like Iams, Pedigree and Whiskas, launched a “first plant formula” in June called Karma. While the product is marketed as having 60% of its ingredients come from plants, it also includes chicken or white fish.

Nestle, which produces pet food under the Purina brand, launched a food for dogs and cats in Switzerland in 2020 that includes proteins from plants as well as insects. Mars is also releasing a dry cat food made from the meal of the UK black soldier fly larvae insect, one of several insect protein-based foods currently being worked on for pets.

Freshpet, which sells refrigerated dog and cat food, said it will begin a line of vegan dog food that will be available at Petco locations this year.

Bethencourt said he expects General Mills, which owns Blue Buffalo Pet Food Company, to have a vegan product for pets in the next two years.

It’s a trend he doesn’t see slowing down as long as the same is happening in the dining room and restaurant tables all over the United States

“The same consumers who buy Beyond or Impossible Burgers are the same people who are switching their pets to a vegan diet,” he said.

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