By Rebecca Heilweil
The pet food sector could start looking a little more human. So says the new CEO of the premium pet food delivery startup Ollie, who forwards that a desire for health and premium-quality nutrition will drive competition in the increasingly dog-eat-dog pet space.
Ollie, founded in 2016, has raised about $17 million in its three years, according to Crunchbase.
"I think it looks a little bit like the human space, which is why we're increasingly looking at wellness," CEO Nick Stafford told Cheddar. "This — sort of — premium and fresh [food] part of the market is arguably one of the most dynamic parts of the market. It's a strong growth part of the market."
But Ollie isn't the only company hoping to capitalize on owners' love for their pets. Crunchbase overall reports that the pet startup space — overall — has fundraised more than $1 billion.
The clear titan of the space is Chewy, an e-commerce platform for pet food and pet products. On Friday, the company released its first earnings report since going public last month.
Chewy reported that it had met its growth expectations, causing its share price to soar — indicating faith in the growing pet sector. Last year, Chewy announced it would expand beyond the food and supplies space, and begin offering medicines for pets, and other medical products, through a new online pharmacy.
Among others startups, Ollie also faces competition from PetPlate, another dog food delivery subscription service that's raised about $4 million since its founding. There's also Kibus Petcare, a startup developing a device that works like a Keurig-microwave crossover, automatically releasing warm food to pets multiple times a day.
Amazon, meanwhile, has looked to slash prices on its own pet food offerings.
But Stafford says that consumers are ultimately look for personalization, and are willing to splurge on their animal companions.
"When you become a pet parent with Ollie, you're very focused on the onboarding, you describe your dog, the age of the dog, the breed, the gender, allergies, etcetera. And we're tailoring our product to meet those needs," he explained.
"That's harder to do for a marketplace than it is for a direct-to-consumer brand."
Stafford said that he's focused on increasing brand awareness and scaling the company as Ollie navigates the increasingly crowded space.
"The logical place for us to start is to say we have a great product, and we would like more people to experience it," said Stafford. "That's probably going to be our primary focus before we get too much into services."