he market for vegan pet food is on the verge of a boom. One analysis suggests that the U.S. market alone will nearly double to $ 15.6 billion by 2028, driven by climate issues and the number of pet owners turning away from meat.
Surveys in the UK show that a third of dog owners want to switch their pets from meat to a plant-based diet.
Over 50% of UK dogs have obesity-related problems.
Dr. Guy Sandelowsky and Shiv Sivakumar, founders of the vegan pet food company Omni, gave this interview to the Evening Standard.
Tell us how the business started and where you want to take it
We founded Omni to make it easier to give dogs the best chance of long and healthy lives. We knew there was a more environmentally friendly way to do this, without the need to slaughter animals for their meat. Until recently, most dog foods were made from highly processed meat, or worse, raw meat. Not only do these pose serious health risks to dogs, they are also not environmentally sustainable.
Our co-founder and chief veterinarian Dr. Guy Sandelowsky has seen the effects of this meat-based diet on his patients. One in three dogs will die of cancer and over half the UK dog population will be obese. By cleaning up dogs’ diets with healthier, high-quality ingredients, we’re giving them a better chance to develop.
We came together with Guy’s network of veterinarians and clinical nutritionists to formulate recipes that are free of cheap animal by-products, fillers, or chemicals and that have a much lower environmental impact to produce. After more than 20 recipes over the course of a year, we have succeeded in creating the world’s first vegetable meat for dogs that is 100% nutritionally complete, loved by dogs, healthy and up to 90% more environmentally friendly.
Our mission is to become the world’s most popular and trusted plant-based dog food brand.
Is it true that pets eat 20% of the world’s meat? What are the effects of this?
Amazing isn’t it? Owning a medium-sized dog has twice the environmental impact of building and operating an SUV like a Toyota Land Cruiser. A UCLA study concluded that pet food causes up to 25% of the environmental damage associated with the meat industry.
How did that pandemic Has the pet boom affected your business?
The pandemic has resulted in pet ownership in the UK almost doubling. Flexible remote working has allowed people to spend more time at home. We have seen particular growth in pet ownership in the Gen Z and Millennial segments of the market. This is a big boost for us at omni as they are health and environmentally conscious pet parents looking for healthier and more sustainable lifestyles for themselves, their families and their pets.
Previous health risks from other zoonotic diseases such as swine flu and BSE have led people to question the ethics and safety of farm animals because of their meat. The fact that this pandemic appears to have been caused by an animal-to-human strain of coronavirus has heightened frustration and suspicions about our heavy reliance on the meat industry.
Athletes and celebrities like Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton have done a lot to promote the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle. Human food companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible have proven that plant-based foods can look and taste like real meat. We see Omni as an extension of this movement.
Dogs love meat and don’t like vegetables, sure, aren’t we forcing them to do something they don’t want?
It’s a common query for many pet owners. The short answer is that dogs like both! Carrot sticks are one of the most common treats we give dogs in the UK.
The reason dogs and humans get along so well is because they evolved in parallel. For thousands of years, dogs have been eating the rubbish that humans have thrown them. A dog’s diet is similar to that of its caretakers, so people in the West feed their dogs meat because it has traditionally been a large part of their own meals. But in India and Sri Lanka, for example, dogs are often vegetarians because their humans are vegetarians.
What Are The Benefits Of A Plant-Based Pet Diet?
If you switch your dog to a plant-based diet, stop feeding your dog artery-clogging animal fat, cancer-causing processed meat, or the chemical and antibiotic residues that are repeatedly found in meat-based dog foods.
It also means that you have chosen not to feed your dog raw meat, which is a wise decision considering the need to cook meat to kill potentially life-threatening microbes like salmonella, E. coli, and various parasites.
If you choose to Omni feed them instead, give them a healthy, high quality, plant-based diet that is healthier and doesn’t require slaughtering a single animal; now that’s not great !?
Omni is made from ingredients you might find on your own dining table, like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, brown rice, and lentils. In addition to being cleaner, these ingredients are absolutely delicious, so even the most picky of eaters will be delighted at mealtimes. Plus, you’ll reduce the carbon footprint of your dog’s food by up to 85%, which is a huge added bonus given the current climate emergency we all face!
A plant-based diet like omni is also ideal if your dog suffers from allergies. Meat / fish protein is the most common food-based allergen we see in dogs, so excluding it could be key to your dog’s allergy-free life. Omni is also a good choice for dogs that are slightly overweight.
And the disadvantages? (There must be some. Flatulence?)
The main disadvantage of the plant-based diet for dogs is that it is not easy to prepare and therefore requires great expertise to formulate safely. For example, a homemade plant-based diet can be challenging to properly balance your dog’s specific protein, vitamin, and mineral needs. Even with the best of intentions, incomplete nutrition in the absence of expertise can lead to malnutrition, which can negatively affect your dog’s health and well-being.
Certain ingredients like peas are full of valuable nutrients, but need to be cooked in a specific way to optimize bioavailability and absorption. Additionally, knowing how the ingredients interact is vital to ensure that one isn’t blocking the uptake of another.
Keeping fiber levels at optimal levels for dogs’ digestive systems can also be a challenge. Some fiber is ideal as it adds bulk to stool, but too much can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and gas.
What do vets say about all of this?
We are a veterinary founded brand deeply rooted in science and evidence-based medicine. We have found that other veterinarians really support this approach and are generally very excited about the health and environmental benefits of feeding dogs a plant-based diet. Most are also aware of the evidence showing that dogs are omnivores and know that they can safely get their food from a variety of meat and / or plant sources. They have also been prescribing herbal diets for dogs with allergies for decades, so you understand better than anyone that not only is it possible, but it has been safe for many years.
When concerns arise, they usually relate to specific brands that may not offer a nutritionally complete formulation. There is also concern that when dog parents try to cook a diet at home, they are more likely to be deficient in certain nutrients.
What can you tell us about the company’s finances? Who are the shareholders? What is the income?
We are still at the beginning, but we already have a talented pool of investors behind us. These include Brendan Robinson, a highly respected veterinarian and entrepreneur known for creating the hugely successful Village Vet group, which provides gold standard clinical care to pets across the UK. We also have the support of Amit Lakhani, Investment Director at Zeal Ventures and Alec Pratt, Managing Director at Numis, who both firmly believe that the future of our diet and our pets will shift massively from meat to plants. based alternatives.
We have also been fortunate to have been incubated by two of the leading accelerators in the food tech space – ProVeg and Brinc – both of which are trying to continue to help omni grow. In addition, we have received investment from other leading players in the cultured meat space, which, along with plant-based meat, is forecast to completely transform the landscape of the global food chain.
We never planned to sell Omni before August 2021, but during our taste test earlier this year sending free Omni bags to 250 British dog parents, we were overwhelmed with requests for follow-up purchases. People couldn’t believe how much their dogs loved Omni, it was a real turning point for the business and proof that what we did was in great demand. That prompted us to open a temporary payment gateway on our website and we were sold out in the first month of sales. Since then, our loyal customers have been buying Omni again as they have seen the beneficial effects of diet on their dogs and our sales have continued to grow month by month. We had our highest revenue in August with a sales increase of 200% compared to July and we continue to see high volume of new customers every month, especially now that we have activated subscription options where customers can save up to 20%. .