(Forbes) -- With a fast-growing awareness about nutrition and our own health, it is not surprising that the next wave of wellness companies are not focused on humans, but on pets.
There are an estimated 89.7 million dogs living in households across the U.S. and are the second most popular pet, after fish. In terms of money spent on pets, the U.S. is by far the world leader with the U.K. a distant second.
95% of pet owners consider their animals to be part of their family and nearly half of pet "parents" are concerned about the health and wellbeing of their pet as much as they are a member of their human family according to a Mintel Report and are prepared to spend the money on them.
This is backed up by 44% of millennials see pets as starter children.
Similar to the obesity epidemic among humans, 56% of dogs are estimated to be overweight or obese in the U.S., which leads to a shorter life and a host of other health issues. Along these lines, there has been a 911% increase in diabetes in cats and dogs since 2011. In addition, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs. 1 in 3 dogs will develop cancer, which is the same incidence of cancer among men.
The pet industry in the U.S. as a whole is estimated to be worth $72 billion and 2018 figures suggest that $29.88 billion coming from pet food. Unlike with human food, the pet food industry is highly unregulated. Every year sees dozens of recalls. To date in 2019, have been seven public pet food recalls and in 2018 there were been nearly 50 recalls. Reasons have ranged from salmonella to euthanasia drugs being found even in some major pet food brands.
In addition, many people don’t realize that some brands of pet food can be made up of animals who are diseased, dying, disabled, or dead.
Seeing the scale of this problem and having had first-hand experience co-founders Alex Douzet, Gabby Slome and Randy Jimenez launched Ollie in late 2016. Ollie delivers healthy, freshly cooked, and human-grade dog food personalized to each dog’s nutritional profile across the U.S.
Slome explained that she realized there was a problem when her rescue dog started gaining too much weight on traditional pet food. She decided to investigate what was really in her dog’s food and was disturbed to discover it was full of preservatives, artificial ingredients, and mystery meat. Further research revealed how current food regulations that are supposed to protect pets are actually failing them, and how loopholes allow some pet food makers to get away with harmful ingredients.
Ollie was launched after raising $4.4 million from top venture capital firms including Primary Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures. They raised a further $12.6 million Series A in 2017 and are strongly considered the market leader in this space. After just 2 years, they had delivered over 5 million meals and their annual growth rate from 2017 to 2018 has tripled.
Currently focused on delivering freshly cooked, human grade food tailored to each dog; think Detox Kitchen or Plated but for dogs. Working with veterinary nutritionist Ollie currently have four recipes and snacks, and are looking to expand that whether it’s meals for more specific dietary requirements, therapeutic lines, or even cats down the road.
There are a number of competitors in this space including The Farmer’s Dog, launched in 2017 which raised circa $50 million, according to CrunchBase, and Pet Plate, which launched in 2016 and raised circa $4 million. All of it shows the growing demand by consumers for the same healthy awareness and options for their pets as themselves.
Similar to humans, dogs need exercise too and the right amount is a matter of energy consumed versus energy output through exercise. As a result, there are a number of canine trackers, similar to Fitbits, on the market also receiving funding.
So what next in the pet wellness space? Will we be seeing pet mindfulness?
With such a large market and our devotion to our pets, there will be many more human-first innovations coming to this market.