In 2016, one click of the computer can get you pretty much anything delivered to your front door. From gourmet meals to skincare samples and cases of wine, several companies have adopted the digital-to-door subscription service model. Now pet food companies are also getting in on the action.
Launched in 2015 by two friends with a background in business and a shared love for their dogs, The Farmer’s Dog is offering pet owners a new way to feed their canine companions. Using human-grade ingredients to produce balanced, veterinarian-approved meals, the company provides a subscription-based service to deliver healthy, nutritious meals for your dog directly to your front door.
The Farmer’s Dog was inspired by co-founder Brett Podolsky’s own dog Jada, a rottweiler with stomach issues. Podolsky began creating homemade meals at the recommendation of his veterinarian and almost immediately witnessed an improvement in Jada’s overall health.
Crashing with the pair upon relocating from California to New York City, co-founder Jonathan Regev witnessed firsthand the transformative power of the new diet. “I’d never really seen anyone cooking for their dog, and for the first time I was able to kind of realize what pet food is,” he recalls.
The duo began researching the benefits of natural dog food and found many pet owners excited to take control in the kitchen, yet frustrated by both a wealth of misinformation and a lack of options available to them.
They soon realized that a large need in this specific area of pet care was being widely unmet, and decided to do something about it.
“We created the company really to solve a problem,” Regev says. “There are a lot of people trying to move away from commercial or highly-processed food, and we sort of discovered that it’s difficult to do correctly, or even learn about how to do it correctly.”
With 95 percent of pet owners considering their furry friend a part of the family, more and more people are looking to healthy alternatives to commercially produced kibble. Recent trends reflect the desire to give their dogs the best care possible, and although the demand is there, many just don’t know where to begin.
“When we started it was all about the discovery of fresh food, but we also discovered how problematic or difficult it can be to pick the right food for your pet,” Regev says.
This is where The Farmer’s Dog brings something new to the table. With a user-friendly website, the company works to direct pet parents in the right direction, helping owners determine the best options for their specific dog’s needs. Using a personalized questionnaire, pet parents enter their dog’s age, weight, activity level and current diet to best determine the appropriate plan for their pooch. Their dog’s meal plan is then cooked fresh in a commercial kitchen and delivered in pre-portioned packages, ready for dogs to enjoy.
For anyone looking to cook their own dog’s meals, the company also offers nutritional packages called DIY Nutrient Packs that can be sprinkled on recipes — allowing for a balanced meal, and hitting all the nutritional marks that might be missed when navigating homemade dog food on your own.
The Farmer’s Dog aims to take the guessing out of homemade food. “Whenever we can make the entire process of keeping your pet healthy easier we try to do that,” Regev says. Formulated by vet nutritionists, the individually packaged portions meet AAFCO standards, just like the commercial pet food you might buy in the store.
A vet portal located on their website also provides nutritional information for veterinarians, allowing them to learn as much about the service as needed to confidently recommend it to patients. “We like to work with doctors and make sure they are comfortable recommending this food, and with the vet portal we provide info that would help inform vets so they can do that,” Regev says.
One thing Regev and company insist on: The Farmer’s Dog is not a luxury product.
“The thing we’re always trying to make clear, and what can sometimes be confused because we have nice photos or people think of our food as gourmet, is that this is not about spoiling your dog,” Regev explains. “It’s not about being fancy; it’s about giving your dog the healthiest thing that you can and about the power food can have on health.” Having seen the light when it comes to the impact the right ingredients can have on their dog’s health, The Farmer’s Dog hopes to share what they’ve learned with dog owners looking for something different.
And that belief coupled with an uptick in pet parents spending more on their dogs has attracted a lot of other companies to the homemade, dog-food delivery market. The Farmer’s Dog faces stiff competition from similar startups, including PetPlate, Barklyn Organics, DoggyChef and Breuer’s Premium – and these are just the ones born in the New York City area.
So what is it about this relatively new company that has investors believing so strongly in their service — strong enough to have collectively invested $2 million in seed funding for the budding company? Well, it’s the belief that everyone associated with The Farmer’s Dog — be it as a consumer or a CEO — is all about the health and well-being of dogs.
“As early investors in The Farmer’s Dog, we were immediately attracted the team’s vision of bringing the benefits of healthy food to this beloved part of our families — our pets,” says Eurie Kim of Forerunner Ventures . “Just as we all have unique needs, our pets do as well, and it’s this tailored approach that The Farmer’s Dog offers which we believe will disrupt today’s opaque, under-regulated pet food industry.”
While many begin to explore the natural food route as a solution to a medical problem their dog may be facing, Regev and company were surprised to learn that that majority of clients seeking their services were simply looking for a healthy alternative to feeding their pet. With a major importance on the impact organically produced and prepared food can make on us as people, this change in how we view the foods we feed ourselves, and our pets, marks a major shift in consumer habits. “These concerns are rapidly changing the expectations consumers have for the food they buy for their pets,” says Kim.
Additionally, the subscription-based service model may have met its match with this specific breed of clientele, one which thrives on consistency. “A dog is the perfect subscription customer – they eat the same thing all the time in the same amount,” Regev explains. “If we can put them on a subscription, we can continue to make food that’s fresh and deliver it to them directly, keeping it affordable by skipping the retailers and distributors.”
Looking forward, The Farmer’s Dog will continue along its journey, hopeful that its service can help others in their own search for a healthy alternative to what’s typically offered in terms of feeding your dog. “Still, very few people know about us, and a lot of people are very stressed about finding a healthy diet for their dogs, we’re excited to share this with more people,” Regev says. “We’re just excited about getting this product to more dogs.”