In recent years, pet health and wellness have increased in importance as a growing section of the global population understands that healthy animals also contribute to the overall well-being of families.
Further, pet ownership is on the rise globally, with dogs and cats being the most popular pet choices. Living in the era of COVID-19, now, more than ever, pet owners—of all stripes—have embraced a holistic lifestyle to ensure that their beloved pets eat food packed with all the essential nutrients, that us humans embrace on a daily basis.
Superfood for dogs
Recognising the importance of boosting the health and well-being of pets, Blair Triplett and Leslie Moyan, co-founded TBH Pets in Melbourne, Australia, in 2019. They realised that that the time was ripe to disrupt the pet food industry by focusing on producing healthy plant and high protein insect-based superfoods for dogs.
TBH Pets was founded to offer a healthier alternative to dogs, to fulfill their nutritional requirements, while minimising potential harm to the environment.
Ollie is waiting to dig into her nutritious snack!
The co-founders named the startup TBH, or To Be Honest, to reflect the honesty and passion they brought to the vision of revolutionising the pet food industry. Blair, COO & CMO, TBH Pets, elaborates, “The TBH brand is about transparency, honesty, being one with yourself, your pet and with the environment. There is a sense of discovery around the TBH name. The TBH name resonated with our core consumer, female, aged mid-20s to mid-30s.”
The business partners realised that several popular dog food brands contained harmful and poor quality ingredients. These could cause heart disease, liver disease and other chronic ailments, resulting in overall poor health for one’s canine companions. Noting the trend of an increasing number of dog owners moving away from traditional branded dog foods and opting for healthier options, such as plant-based and organic food, Blair and Leslie founded TBH Pets to create a unique category and brand proposition that promoted plant-based diets for dogs.
“Dogs and cats do not need to eat meat. Rather, they have certain nutritional dietary protein requirements which can be obtained from plant matter, along with alternative high-protein sources, such as insects,” explains Blair.
Business model and processes
TBH Pets sells its products directly to end consumers through the company’s website. The startup has also partnered with established industry players to sell through their portals that offer consumers a variety of product categories, including pet-related products.
TBH Pets currently offers six main SKUs and proposes to add more SKUs as the company expands. The startup is currently developing a “Main Meal” for dogs which they hope to launch within the next six months, along with a range of “Toppers” which permit a pet parent to add different ingredients to the main meal in order to make things a little more interesting for the pet. Since TBH is a holistic pet brand, all the food is produced in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)-certified human food facilities. A high quality grooming aromatherapy range is also well under development and this should be ready for launch by the middle of 2021.
TBH Pets has also established relationships with leading producers of sustainable food for sourcing hemp and crickets for its range of plant and insect-based dog superfoods. The company sources the best human grade hemp from Ananda’s production fields in Australia and only the best USDA certified organic crickets from Ontario-based Entomo Farms. The founders believe that collaborating with global names in sustainable human food production would aid in the company’s long-term strategic objectives and promote credibility for the TBH brand.
TBH Pets currently manufactures ‘treats’ for dogs that are either 100 per cent plant and insect-based, or plant-based only. TBH does yet have a range for Cats but is a part of future planning.
‘Organic cricket with roasted pumpkin and almonds’: According to several research studies, it has been established that crickets are a high source of proteins and sustainably nourish pets. The insect contains more complete proteins than beef, making it an ideal superfood for dogs.
Organic Cricket with Hemp and Camomile
‘Superior hemp with quinoa and carrot’: Studies have shown hemp is a super seed that boosts dogs’ immunity. Hemp protects canines from skin infections, cardiac diseases, allergies and other ailments as it is rich in Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Waiting to dig into my TBH treat!
‘Nutritious seaweed with chickpea and sweet potato’: Seaweed is a superfood for dogs as it is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. The superfood promotes the intestinal and digestive health of dogs and boosts their immunity.
All TBH treats are made using Australian grown plant-based ingredients and baked in a real human HACCP certified bakery. TBH products contain ten essential amino acids, providing the same protein as meat. Some of the other products include ‘Organic cricket with hemp and camomile’ and ‘Organic cricket with roasted pumpkin and almonds’.
The startup’s building blocks
TBH Pets is currently bootstrapped, but plans are on the anvil to explore strategically-led funding that would facilitate growth in relevant markets.
The startup’s marketing strategy has been led by its digital media initiatives to align with its core Direct to Consumer (DTC) engagement model. TBH Pets reaches out to potential consumers through its personal and professional networking circles. The startup also directly pitches to cafes, food service stores, pet stores and health and beauty retailers—both brick-and-mortar and online. Among challenges, the startup initially found it difficult to locate a manufacturer that would produce HACCP certified (human food quality) for pets. Another challenge is to create demand for the TBH Pets brand – a teething problem most new brands face in the initial stages of the startup journey.
According to Blair, the company surmounted the challenges by being nimble and engaging specialists who can add value at every step of the startup’s journey.
In the future, the co-founders seek to expand into non-food pet product categories to ensure that the TBH brand is positioned as a truly holistic pet offering. According to Blair, the company’s thrust would be to build a solid omnichannel approach in Australia and seek new growth opportunities in overseas markets, including India, other parts of Asia, Europe, the UK and North America.
One of the key entrepreneurial lessons Blair and Leslie picked up along the way was “to be persistent, never take ‘no’ for an answer and to pivot quickly to move forward.”
Blair sums up, “We quickly realised that while we started off thinking that we had created a pet food brand, it became important to be able to pivot quickly and reposition the TBH brand as a multi-product holistic brand that is disrupting the established norm of Big Pet foods.”
That’s about as honest as it gets!