“Organic!” “Non-GMO.” “Grain-free,” and even, yes, “Keto-friendly!”
As these labels scream out from either side of the aisle, one might think that this consumer is exploring an aisle at Whole Foods or Sprouts.
But in fact, this consumer is shopping for an entirely different demographic — a non-human one. This, in fact, is the dog food aisle at the local Petco.
This gourmet dog food market sample is part of a far larger trend broadly known as the “humanization” of pets, primarily dogs and cats. Driven by changing demographics — where the percentage of single households is rising, millennials continue to push off marriage and children, and retired adults are living longer — pets are increasingly being categorized as “beloved members of the family,” rather than simply animals.
And our fur children are costing, well, almost as much as real children, largely because we’re choosing to spend more on them. The global pet care market size was estimated at over $130 billion in 2016, and is expected to exceed $200 billion in 2025.
Despite the seeming bevy of health-promoting canine food and products, Atlanta-area entrepreneur Kari Sapp was at a loss at what to do when her beloved best friend was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the young age of five.
“It was out of the blue — of course I was devastated,” Sapp tells Hypepotamus. “But it got my wheels churning on how many things are out there that you can do for your pet, but how it’s such a hard place to find out where you should start. I just wanted one solution to improve her long-term care, but her short-term goals as well.”
Before any readers start tearing up, Sapp’s pup went through treatment and is very much alive and barking.
But Sapp continued to research a person(dog?)-alized, preventative care option to keep her pal in top shape. There are so many direct-to-consumer health and supplement options for humans, but she couldn’t find a comparable option for dogs.
Sapp brought her observations to her old friend and the founder of the company she worked for at the time, Stefan Lewinger. Lewinger founded subscription footwear company Sock Fancy in 2013 and grew it to over 10,000 subscribers around the world.
He also saw the gap in the market.
“We found that there were a lot of options when it came to self-care for people, but you’re kind of left on your own when it comes to your pet,” says Lewinger. “You can wade through your local pet shop or look through reviews on Amazon, but we found it was hard to directly find what you’re looking for.”
With Lewinger’s help as COO, Sapp co-founded Goodboy, a direct-to-consumer pet supplement subscription.
Dog owners complete a comprehensive quiz through the Goodboy website, covering basics like the dog’s breed, weight, height, current medical issues, etc. The quiz also dives into the pup’s habits and activities, as well as the owner’s own behavior with their pet and their goals for their pet’s lifestyle.
Once complete, Goodboy provides a custom recommendation for each dog, complete with a specific supplement — they currently offer four, but that will reach 10-15 by the year’s end — as well as a dosage and dosing schedule.
The Goodbye team worked closely with a handpicked ‘Certified Good Manufacturing’ partner to develop products that met consumers’ high standards for their pets.
“Everything is made in America, it’s got no fillers, it’s all natural as possible,” says Sapp. “There were all of these things that we wanted in a supplement that [our manufacturer] met the criteria on. We wanted to be transparent about all of that.”
In addition to standard health-related products addressing bone and joint health, nutrition, etc., Goodboy offers a “calming” supplement for those dogs who are wound up a little too tightly.
The site launched only three weeks ago, but Sapp and Lewinger are pleased with the feedback thus far. Prior to launch, they also partnered with a local animal rescue organization to obtain feedback from working veterinarians in the field.
Now that they’ve tested the platform, the plan is to turn on the scale spigots through digital marketing to consumers, as well as working through partner organizations like veterinarian offices, animal rescues, pet stores and others.
To enable that scale, the currently-bootstrapped startup is talking to investors about a small pre-seed funding round, which they hope to close before the end of the year.
“We’re trying to play the first-mover advantage to get out in front of this,” says Lewinger.
Given the size of the market, Goodboy has several options on what might come next — specialty food, other health products, etc.
Sapp says they might even one day consider digging into the feline market. Cats have the second-highest market share amongst pet care after dogs.
After all, any fur kid who is loved and taken care of can be a very good boy.
Photos provided by Goodboy