Chicken, peas, beef, sweet potatoes and blueberries, the stuff of $40 meals in places like Hayes Valley and Greenwich Village — and starting today, also the stuff of dog food.
Ollie, a new startup founded by Alex Douzet, Gabby Slome and Randy Jimenez, is aimed squarely at disrupting the premium pet food space by offering something like a Sprig or Maple for dogs. With a new $4.4 million round co-led by Primary Ventures and Lerer Hippeau Ventures, with participation from Canaan Partners, and others, Ollie hopes to deliver customized, healthy and natural meals to dog owners across the country.
Just like with humans, eating the right food is critical for the health and well-being of dogs. Alarming statistics are not hard to find that depict the rise of diabetes, cancer and liver failure in pets.
To combat this, the Ollie team is using real ingredients to produce food for dogs that is fit for human consumption. The company is also using online profiles to manage nutritional needs to moderate portion sizes.
“We understand the dog,” said Douzet. “We capture information like breed, activity label, if dog is spayed/neutered, and based on that we have an algorithm that will calculate daily calorie needs and match that to the food type that we send.”
With this information in hand, the company ships portioned meals in two-week intervals to dog owners. The online profile for each dog can be updated at any time, so if your dog gains or looses weight, recalculation of dietary needs can be done easily.
At any given time, the Ollie team is split between New York and Pennsylvania. The company uses a third-party USDA kitchen in the Keystone State to produce its meals and keeps people on the ground at all times to ensure quality.
The on-demand model has become a bit trite in recent years, but there is a biological basis to justify it in the case of Ollie. Because the company ships new meals every two weeks, it doesn’t have to add preservatives to keep the food from spoiling.
Ollie is proud of the fact that their food is so nutritious they only have to add a small number of supplements to meet the AAFCO basel requirements. It’s important to remember that some dogs may still be in need of a boost in a specific area if they have a particular condition or predisposition. Veterinarian Dr. Craig Etherington underscores this point. “You can have great ingredients but not have a balanced diet.”
In the human world, the speculation about a tech bubble seems to be in temporary remission, but in the dog world — business is booming. The premium dog food market has grown to become a $13 billion market, and shows no signs of stopping. Double-digit growth has attracted a slew of startups for dogs, but very few have achieved the scale that would signal a mature, saturated, market. This is the case with PetPlate, one of Ollie’s closest competitors. The two companies are taking slightly different approaches to cornering the market. PetPlate is starting with a few more menu items than Ollie, but delivery is constrained to the northeast.
“Ollie started with the mindset of being national from the get-go,” said Ben Sun, partner at Primary Ventures. “Some other businesses launch locally first on the delivery aspect which is interesting, but it’s hard to scale that across the country.”
Right now, you can get Ollie in all 48 states of the continental United States via FedEx delivery. Prices start at $3 per pound and average around $6 per pound, depending on the needs of your particular dog. That price is certainly more than non-premium offerings from other manufacturers, but doesn’t come close to topping the prices of some premium freeze-dried options that can exceed $15 per pound.
Ollie is getting off the ground with two products, a chicken and a beef version of its dog food. In the future, the team wants cats to have access to quality food, as well. Randy, the only cat owner on the team, is spearheading the effort that should bring peace and order back to the pet world.