As consumers think more about what to put into their bodies, they also think about what to feed their pets. Driven by the global pandemic and everyone’s home with their pets, sales in this sector topped $ 100 billion in 2020.
Austin-based Maev, which develops human-quality raw dog food, is poised to get a stake in the raw food category and announced today that it has raised $ 9 million in a funding round led by Springdale Ventures . The company has previously undisclosed rounds supported by VMG Partners, Bolt, and Willow Growth.
The idea for the pet care brand for direct end consumers was launched in 2018 by CEO Katie Spies and Christine Busaba. Before founding the company, Spies started her career as an engineer with three degrees. She worked at a startup as a product development manager, but ultimately left that behind to find another calling. During this time she became a dog walker and realized what was needed in the dog food sector.
Although they officially started the company in 2019, Busaba and Spies didn’t launch their first product, raw dog food, until 2020. The pandemic initially affected Maev’s ability to start. The company has four employees and is having to postpone its launch plans and even postpone its funding round, she said. It worked, and today it added additional vitamin bars and bone broth toppers to its product pipeline.
The feeds were developed and clinically tested with a team of veterinary nutritionists to fill the nutritional gaps for a healthier dog. The frozen foods are made from real meat, vegetables, and fruits, and unlike competing brands that require thawing, Maev’s products are ready to eat out of the freezer, Spies said.
“We started with three products, but we’re building the future of pet care,” she added. “This grocery aisle had little innovation. There are some great products out there, but pet owners have accepted that healthier products are harder to use. Our goal is to make products easier and better for your dog. “
Maev sells its food as a subscription product at an average cost of around $ 2 per meal. In the past year, the company gained around 2,000 customers and has 16 employees and 11 vacancies. During this time, the company has grown in sales, increased its customer base, invested in the supply chain, and cemented its innovation.
Now that the new capital is in hand, Spies plans to “step on the gas” to increase its monthly growth from 20% to 25%. In the next year the company will sell its products in the omnichannel area with a focus on customer loyalty. 92% of customers stay close after their first package, a statistic Spies explained is not seen often with other pet food brands, where the industry average is 60%.
She expects to invest the new capital in relocating its headquarters to Austin, building brand awareness, and hiring marketing and supply chain staff. One of the company’s biggest customer requests is a chicken product, and they are in the works to have one available in three months. Spies expects this additive to sell better than its current beef product.
With 95 million dogs in the US, Spies has plenty of room for growth. There are 112 fresh pet food companies with new entrants that have shaken the market in the past few years, she said. Maev is one of the youngest to attract venture-backed finance and, along with Alpha Paw and Jinx, announced new pay hikes in the past two months.
Well-established pet food companies are now putting a paw print on healthier foods too: Freshpet launched its Spring & Sprout vegetarian dog food in September, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition announced a partnership with Bond Pet Foods last month to ferment meat proteins for Applications to manufacture pet food.
“It was really interesting to see how the market developed,” said Spies. “Today it’s great that more dog owners are being educated about some of the problems with standard nibbles and are skeptical about what to feed their dogs. However, when you get to the heart of all of the decisions you make about your dog, it will be the most important one for health and longevity. “
That attention to detail and pet care has drawn many Maev investors to jump on board.
“We are very specific and prescriptive in considering brands to add to the VMG portfolio and invest sparingly but strategically in those companies that have what it takes to become iconic brands,” said Carle Stenmark, partner at VMG Partners, in a written statement. “We were immediately drawn to Maev from their incredibly dedicated and vocal customer base, as well as our collaboration with Katie, who we believe is a world-class founder who sets the standard for the next generation of pet care.”
“Innovation in our field doesn’t just mean new products in different formats or packaging; Instead, it is about the lives of consumers and looking for ways to exceed their expectations and improve their daily routines, including their loved ones and furry friends, ”added Dan Graham, Co-Founder and General Partner of Springdale Ventures. “Katie’s passion and determination to change the lives of pets and their owners is not only a fantastic product at the forefront of the better-for-you pet food movement, but a journey we look forward to, especially as our first investment in the pet area, others will follow. “