The influence and popularity of meal kits is growing. But can that same innovation be applied to another consumer—pets—and hit the same spark.
One company is attempting just that. PetPlate, which was launched in the fall of 2015, provides pet owners with prepared meal kits designed for dogs. The kits contain exclusively human-grade fresh ingredients.
“I spent a lot of time in pet food factories just by happenstance, and while I was there I saw the ingredients being used and I realized there was probably a healthier way to feed our pets,” said Renaldo Webb, founder of PetPlate. Webb saw the inner workings of the pet food industry during his time in the private equity realm.
So will this pet meal kit idea take off the same way it did for human meals?
Retailers have already joined the surging meal kit tide, making the prepped system an ally rather than a competitor. But will a growing interest in pet nutrition lead grocers to invest in similar options for customers’ four-legged friends?
According to a Mintel report released last summer on the US pet food market, this strategy falls in line with what modern dog owners are looking for.
In the vital 18 to 34 demographic, pet owners are currently in a state of limbo, stuck between prioritizing price as well as natural and organic ingredients.
“These potentially conflicting interests could create an opportunity for retailers of all types to offer private label natural or organic pet foods at lower prices than the super premium national natural and organic brands carried at specialty retailers,” the report stated.
The 12% rise in pet food sales between 2011 and 2016 placed the industry at $24 billion and is “driven by the increasingly universal sentiment that pets are members of the family and deserve the best,” according to Mintel. “While pet owners pay attention to price, they also look for most food that aligns with their own personal dietary preferences and beliefs.”
“There’s a massive trend toward sustainable agriculture and plant-based diets for humans, so it’s only natural pet parents want to extend their dietary habits to dogs. After all, they’re considered non-obligate carnivores,” Matthew Dweck, founder of Kaleb's Organics, said in a release. “Today’s commercial pet foods are jeopardizing our pets’ health significantly,” the release claimed.
And Webb concurs.
“People want quality food,” he said and labeled the lower prices of mainstream brands. [Pet parents] are looking for better, healthier options.”
That’s where Webb hopes PetPlate comes in. Meal plans range from $1.43 a meal to $6.43 a meal, depending on the size of the dog. The $1.43 bracket applies to dogs that tip the scales at five pounds or less.
Those prices can’t keep pace with what Laurie S. Coger, DVM, CVCP, said is considered a “premium” mainstream product by many dog owners.
On her Healthy Dog Workshop Blog, Coger pointed to a 24-pound bag of this brand, which is priced at just under $5. She says that a 50-pound dog—a significantly larger size than the five-pound subjects demanding $1.43 per prepared meal at PetPlate—would go through about $1.67 worth of food each day.
A 50-pound dog on a PetPlate plan would cost $4.28 per meal.
Coger did not recommend the mainstream brand and advocated the fresh, natural ingredients used by companies such as PetPlate.
However, she believes that it is cheaper to feed pets with meals composed of high-quality ingredients that owners purchase themselves during their typical shopping rituals.
Webb argues that his service takes the prep work out of the equation for busy pet owners.
While that is true, pet meal kits may not be the answer for grocers looking to keep pace with the growing demand for high-end pet foods. Prepared meals for four-legged friends are poised to check the quality box but not the cost-effective one for pet families.
Carrying product lines that champion natural, premium ingredients is the logical next step, especially if pricing can stay in check while doing so.
Mintel’s findings suggest a favorable market for quality private label selections because customers would be presented with healthy options that fall short of “super-premium” organic brand prices.
Additionally, advertising quick and easy pet recipes that can be made from natural products bought in store may be another way to boost pet-driven revenues, especially if shoppers agree with Coger’s assertions about homemade options.
However, if grocers do feel the need to roll out prepped pet meals under their own label, Webb’s experience suggests that the first to do so will likely be in urban environments. PetPlate’s major source of clientele hails from metro centers such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.