19 Plant-Based For Pets and Creating Sustainable Dog Treats to Lower Your Dogs Carbon Pawprint with Bright Planet Pet’s Katherine Ellison

Dec 7, 2021 | Episodes, Impact Business, Reducing Plastics, Sustainability

My Kindness Calendar's Maran Stern-Kubista

Concerns about climate change led Katherine Ellison from Bright Planet Pet to look closely at the environmental impact of pet ownership and create a line of 100% plant-based dog treats that taste and smell like real meat. In this episode, we learn how consumer behaviour has shifted in the pet product space, chat about the humanization of pets and what this means for sustainability. And learn how you can make an impact in this area by sourcing alternative proteins or switching to plant-based treats. Which may help lower your pet’s carbon pawprint.

If you want to learn more about Katherine and her 100% plant-based pet treats visit brightplanetpet.com. In Canada? These sustainable, vegan, allergy-friendly treats are in-store at your local Pet Valu. You can follow along with Katherine on her mission to save the earth together with your pet one treat at a time on Facebook or Instagram @brightplanetpet.

About the Host


I'm Jennifer Myers Chua. The Host and Producer of the Cost Of Goods Sold podcast. I'm an entrepreneur, a creative, a cookbook fanatic, mother.  I have always been interested in hearing people's stories and I've been determined to change the world for as long as I can remember.

You'll find me at home in Toronto deconstructing recipes, listening to podcasts, enjoying time with friends or wandering alone through a big city.  I'm excited to have you here. Let's do better, together.


Episode Transcript


[00:02:14] Jennifer Chua: If you consider yourself a dog person, you are in good company here. I’m a proud new puppy, parent, myself. And worldwide more and more of us are bringing pets into the home. Pet ownership is trending, increasing in countries all over the world -particularly in developing ones. And how we view our pets is also changing. They’ve become like members of the family. And as pet owners become more invested in the health and wellbeing of their companions, owning a pet may come with some more significant environmental impacts. The choices that we make in terms of our pets’ diets? Well, our dogs are no longer eating meat by-products and table scraps and bone meal. Consumer behaviour has shifted towards feeding higher quality meats in food and in treats. And since meat-based foods use land, water, and energy to manufacture, up to 64 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted in the production of pet food alone. Forbes magazine reported that it’s even been estimated that owning a medium-sized dog can have a similar carbon footprint to a large SUV. Love your pets and the planet? There may be some alternatives worth exploring.

Bright Planet Pet was founded on the principle that dogs and their people deserve a truly sustainable dog treat that is delicious while being 100% plant-based and vegan. Their treats create 90% fewer carbon emissions and use 68% less water than a comparable meat-based treat.

 And just a couple of years ago, Katherine, the founder of bright planet pet was working for large-scale pet food and treat manufacturers. Helping large retailers and national brands manufacture and launch new products. And in her personal life, Katherine and her husband, Dave, were finding themselves, talking about climate change.

Her husband is a scientist. He’s very concerned about all things related to the earth and the pair are very connected to nature. Being out in nature, and going on hikes with their animals. They’re often awed by the natural beauty of our planet. And as they were becoming increasingly concerned about the crisis at hand and their own carbon footprint, they began to make small changes in their personal life. Recycling more, driving less, becoming more conscious of these choices that we make in our everyday lives. And one of the biggest choices was around the food that they were eating. And what kind of impact that their diet could have. So they began to add more plant-based meals, reduce meat. And Katherine soon became a full vegetarian. But it led her to think. What if we could feed our pets this way.

[00:04:59] Katherine Ellison: Even though we don’t have children of our own, when we think about setting the planet up for the next generation, I mean, there’s a huge concern there. And so we just want to do what we can on our part to make those small changes.

[00:05:15] Jennifer Chua: Katherine and her husband live in a beautiful area, surrounded by the nature that they love. The area of 10,000 lakes, Minnesota. They share their life with two cats and three dogs. One pug and two bugs, Boston terrier, pug mixes. Her days revolve strongly around her pets, feeding, walking, and exercising them takes up a lot of her time. But once everyone is taken care of Katherine’s dogs join her in the Bright Planet office space. (She lovingly refers to them as her coworkers) as she fulfills orders works on the business. And takes plenty of opportunities for treat breaks.

[00:05:55] Katherine Ellison: And then it’s always nice to have them to have little mental health breaks and give them some hugs and kisses. And remind me kind of why I’m doing all of this and why Bright Planet is so important. And of course we give lots of treats throughout the day. We treat them with all of our Bright Planet plant-based treats. They also are my taste testers for any product development. So right now I have a bag of biscuit samples, and they usually have those when they go to work first thing in the morning, and then for their afternoon snack.

[00:06:26] Jennifer Chua: So why do you think you are such an enthusiastic pet parent? Did you always have pets growing up? Or why are you so in love with our little furry friends?

[00:06:33] Katherine Ellison: I’ve always loved pets. I grew up with cats and we always had cats my whole childhood, actually, my first word was ‘kitty’, not even mom or dad or anything like that. I’ve just always had a really strong connection with animals. I think it’s the feeling of them just providing us unconditional love that was really something that I embraced and connected with. So I’ve had pets my whole life. I got my first dog when I was 25 and now I definitely love dogs and I love cats equally. So, we have both in our household. I started working at veterinary clinics when I was younger. And when I started working at vet clinics, I found my people. Like the people that love pets, want the best for them, understand them. And a lot of people that are, have strong connections with pets have strong empathy. And so that’s definitely one of the personality qualities that I think I relate to with my pets.

[00:07:38] Jennifer Chua: So you had this opportunity to start a business and create a product, create something, but when did it go into your mind that you had the opportunity to create change?

[00:07:48] Katherine Ellison: I came up with the idea a few years ago when I was at a trade show and I was talking with some colleagues and first I realized that there was a big opportunity to make treats that were specifically created for millennials. And now gen Z consumers. And one of the big things that were trending in the human food industry was the really the huge impact that beyond burgers and impossible meat, they were really like every single grocery store.

And there was so much press about it and they had a strong sustainability mission as well. So first I saw an opportunity to just make plant-based treats and market them as such because there weren’t any products like that on the market a few years ago. And then more so based on my experience and my knowledge about trends in the pet industry, we know that the human food trends come into the pet industry in about three to five years and so more.

So I saw a much bigger opportunity to actually create a plant-based treat that was kind of modelled after the concept of the impossible burger beyond burger and make a plant-based treat that actually tasted and smelled like meat so that our pets would actually really enjoy eating that. While the owner would understand that they were making a more sustainable choice.

So once I had that concept, everything fault fell into place as far as the impact that we could make, because we were going to be able to make treats that were super tasty and delicious with sustainable ingredients that removed meat from all of the formula. Which would, reduce carbon paw prints, reduce the amount of carbon emissions, reduce water usage and land usage. And also we decided to start an initiative where every time we sold a bag of treats, we make a donation to plant one tree. So it’s not just for us. What’s in the treat or what is not in the treat. It’s also the fact that every time you buy a bag you understand that somewhere in the world in an area of deforestation, a tree is being planted because you chose to buy a Bright Planet treat. And so that just goes along with our whole mission of really trying to combat climate change? in the pet industry, by making these small changes for our pets.

[00:10:14] Jennifer Chua: I’d like to talk about the pet industry. Because a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a brand called Ono and it is a non-slip pet dish, but it’s made responsibly with silicone. And I went to one of these large industry trade shows for pets and our brand and this other brand that were making treats, I believe out of cricket flour. We were the ones with the press coming by and people were excited and Ono actually won the innovation award of that particular show. But the response from the retailers, wasn’t what we had expected. So they were very nervous to take on these new brands. And I’m just wondering in the last couple of years, since I had that experience, how is the market responding or the retail market responding to innovations like this that are sustainably minded in the pet space?

[00:11:09] Katherine Ellison: Yeah, there’s definitely been a shift. There are large key retailers who have made commitments to sustainability, like Petco. They made a statement earlier this year that they wanted 50% or more of their products to be sustainable. I believe by 2025. And so that’s a really strong statement from a very key player in the marketplace saying we understand the importance of sustainability when it comes to our pets.

We want to support sustainable companies. We will not have stock sustainable products because that’s what our consumers are asking for. And that’s what is the right thing to do? And so would we go and talk to retailers, we’re able to tell them about our sustainability mission, which oftentimes lines up with their own goals and it makes the transition easier for them to say, Hey, yes, we are going to take in your products because you are aligned with our goals and our vision for the type of products we want to stock. And that’s because the consumers are asking for it. We know that especially the younger consumers are willing to spend more money on sustainable products. And if they can find those unique, sustainable products at a retailer, like Pet Co. That gets them in the door and makes that retailer much more competitive.

So I think that there’s been a ton of really wonderful innovation. Both on the consumable side as well on the hard goods side, as it relates to sustainability, there are great plant-based and sustainable food choices for our pets now. You mentioned insect protein. That’s a huge sustainability play that is becoming much more mainstream.

We’re also seeing hard, good companies using recyclable plastics to make things like toys. And. Even clothing and things of that nature. So, there’s a huge opportunity for startups right now who are really able to make those innovative products and find a market for it. Potentially first, find that market online and then bring that into retail and partner with these retailers that are looking for sustainable products.

We started our company online. We actually started with a Kickstarter, to help fund our first production run. And we raised $10,000. We were able to take pre-orders and then ship out for our first production run. We do have a presence on Amazon and we do sell direct to consumer. That is part of our strategy, but our strategy always first has been to be at retail. We feel like there is a huge opportunity to bring plant-based options to pet specialty stores, as well as to bring plant-based options for our dogs to stores where we, as humans are buying our own plant-based meat. So our goal is to be in pet specialty stores where that consumer is looking for those unique products that meet maybe some, demands that their pets need, like allergen-friendly, low-calorie, things of that nature. But then also we want to be at grocery stores so that you can go buy your impossible burger and then you can go over to the pet aisle and you can also find a treat for your dogs that is a similar type of product. We do feel like there’s a huge opportunity for us online as well, especially to reach our target customer. So we’ll continue to grow that portion of our business as well.

[00:14:39] Jennifer Chua: You began to look into creating dog treats and you began to really explore the pet industry with kind of a different lens, now that you were going into this as a business owner. Could you tell me about the day that you realized that our conventional pet treats might’ve been, less than ideal? Why did you choose to do the a hundred percent plant-based route and what motivated this decision?

[00:15:02] Katherine Ellison: A lot of our pet treats today that we feed our dogs are primarily meat-based. So we have on the market, a number of different types of meat-based treats. You can see treats that use, whole meat as the first ingredient, like chicken or beef, or there are a lot of very popular brands that use byproducts and the main purpose of using all of those products is to get a delicious flavour.

The most important thing for me was to figure out how to make a plant-based treat that actually tasted good. And so the way that we could do that is actually by adding in a plant-based flavouring that makes our product taste and smell like meat.

[00:15:43] Jennifer Chua: I’m just super curious. How are you getting that meaty, smoky flavour that is attractive to dogs? How are you getting that with the plant-based product?

[00:15:50] Katherine Ellison: So we work with a flavour supplier and they have a whole team of scientists where they make flavours for both human food and for pet food. And so they have these proprietary formulas and these proprietary methods where they can develop flavours that don’t use any meat. It tastes and smells like meat. They actually keep that very close to them. They actually don’t share some of those secrets. But we do know that all of our flavourings that we use have absolutely no animal products and are fully plant-based. We also have the opportunity with our flavour supplier to create custom flavours that can be unique and special just to Bright Planet. And so that’s something that we’ll be working on in the coming year to come up with some unique, meaty plant-based flavours that haven’t been seen on the market yet.

[00:16:45] Jennifer Chua: Our pets that are enjoying Bright Planet, what are they tasting at this moment? What do you have available?

[00:16:50] Katherine Ellison: We have three flavours available today. We have our better burger, which tastes like a freshly grilled hamburger. We have our better brat was, which tastes like a grilled bratwurst and we have our better barbecue chicken, which tastes like a delicious chicken leg smothered in barbecue sauce. We’re also working on creating a better bacon flavour, which we’ll taste, of course, like the delicious bacon that our dogs absolutely go crazy for.

[00:17:19] Jennifer Chua: And they’re safe enough for human consumption too right?

[00:17:22] Katherine Ellison: We do have a lot of people that like to try our treats to see what they taste like. We often hear responses. Wow, this is actually pretty good, or this actually tastes meatier than other dog treats. I’ve tried. They are made in a pet facility so they’re not human-grade, but they’re made with all-natural, sustainable, healthy ingredients that we recognize and use in our own diets.

[00:17:47] Jennifer Chua: And what are the costs associated with creating something like a pet treat? Like what’s the environmental impact? What do we need to be concerned about? Like you’ve made these choices that are sustainably minded, but what are the costs associated with doing this? If you were just some big company and you’re just not thinking sustainability at all, you’re just creating pet treats.

[00:18:06] Katherine Ellison: There’s a statistic that shows that American dogs and cats eat so much meat, that if they were a country, they would rank fifth in terms of meat consumption. And so the way we choose to feed and treat our pets really does have a big implant impact on carbon emissions, water usage, land usage, and can make a big difference by making small changes.

So our treats at Bright Planet, because they’re plant-based and we use sustainable ingredients. Our treats create 90%, less carbon emissions and use 68% less water than a traditional meat-based treat.

Yeah. it’s really fantastic. Especially just by removing the beef, beef is one of the highest carbon emission ingredients. And so by removing beef, we can really make a big difference. And, when you feed your pet, our Bright Planet treats, they don’t know that they’re not eating that little tiny doggy burger. They really are enjoying that taste and that smell. And you, as the owner are just having that reinforcement that you made a great decision for your dog. You made a great decision for the planet. We talked to some of our core customers about that, and for them, it’s really important that they’re making these sustainable decisions. And a lot of it just goes back to reinforcing their own beliefs and their own values and wanting to be able to have a treat that speaks to those values that they feel good giving their pets. And our treats are full of really healthy, premium ingredients.

We use ingredients like chickpea flour, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and yeast, as a base for our treats. And then we add in those additional flavors to make it taste and smell like meat. So when you compare our treats to some other plant-based treats on the market, our treats are definitely more premium. We use high-quality ingredients. We use ingredients, you can trust, ingredients, you can understand. And so what a lot of times people look at the back of our packaging, they look at it and they’re looking for things to make them not want to buy our treats. They’re looking for things like corn, soy, wheat, canola oil, things like that. And we don’t have any of those in our products. We use coconut oil instead of canola oil. Our treats are great for dogs with allergies and dogs that have sensitive systems sensitive tummies. So they’re really great for all different types of breeds and sizes of dogs.

[00:20:42] Jennifer Chua: So with Bright Planet, you are reducing your pet’s carbon pawprint, which I love that phrase. And you’re helping address climate change concerns. Can you explain a little bit more of what you mean by that phrase?

[00:20:53] Katherine Ellison: If you compare carbon impact of a meat-based treat it’s much higher than the carbon impact of our plant-based treat. So essentially you as a pet owner, have the ability and the opportunity to help reduce your dog’s carbon pawprint by making changes like switching to Bright Planet treats or even, making changes like buying recyclable toys, reusing bags, when you’re ready to pick up your dog’s waste, not buying new plastic bags to pick up your dog’s waste. So there’s a lot of ways that you can reduce your dog’s carbon pawprint and changing the way you treat your pet is just one of them. And so we want to help enable people to do that by treating with our Bright Planet treats.

[00:21:40] Jennifer Chua: Have you made any other decisions in terms of packaging or manufacturing to create meaningful impact?

[00:21:47] Katherine Ellison: Yeah, that’s a great question. So we are based in Bloomington, Minnesota, which is right outside of the twin cities and both our packaging and our treats are manufactured within a 40 mile radius of our headquarters. And so that helps us reduce our overall transportation-related carbon emissions. And in addition, we love to support local companies and family-owned businesses. And so we really do make a conscious effort of which suppliers we’re going to work with and love to choose companies that are local to where we are headquartered. We are quickly transitioning next year into a recyclable bag. So it’ll be a number two recyclable bag that is able to be dropped off at a grocery store or anywhere else that, collects recyclable bags like grocery bags. In addition, whenever we ship our e-commerce orders or ship any of our online orders, we use all recyclable packaging materials. So they’re all padded mailers that just use, paper. You can put them right in your recycling bin.

[00:22:53] Jennifer Chua: I’d love to learn more about this tree planting program that you have. Why did you choose to plant trees? And what does that partnership really look like?

[00:23:01] Katherine Ellison: yeah. So we chose to play at trees because. Our company is really focused on sustainability. Of course, we love our dogs and cats, but there are so many other great organizations that are donating to animal welfare. Right. Our ethos is really sustainability and compounding climate change. And one of the best ways we can do that is by replanting areas of deforestation. And So we have partnered with the Eden reforestation projects. They are a 5 0 1 C3 that’s based in California and they plant all across the world in areas of deforestation and they pay their employees a livable wage. So they actually have a multicomponent mission, which is to lift communities out of poverty and also plant in areas of deforestation.

And so we were really aligned with their mission and what they do. And so we’ve partnered with them. Once a quarter, we tally up exactly how many bags we’ve sold each quarter, and we make a donation. For this year 2021, we’ve been selling our products since March and we’re on track to plant over 15,000 trees this year with Eden.

And next year we’ve really increased our distribution and we’ll be in much more stores. So we really anticipate that we’ll be able to plant even more trees next year. And it’s really a huge part of our message and our organization. We’re really proud of the fact that we’re able to help with these efforts and. Our core customer really understands and appreciates that part of our business. And it really speaks to our customer that again, is really interested in making sustainable choices as a very tangible thing. When you pick up a bag or when you pick up your bag to give your dog treats, you know that like actually one tree has been planted, which is a great trade-off, and it’s just something kind of more physical that people can relate to.

[00:25:03] Jennifer Chua: So back when you were coming up with this idea to create this business and you’re moving it forward into creating an actual business, did you have a point where you went to your husband, your science-minded husband and said, I want to create a pet product. I want it to be focused on sustainability. We want to go vegetarian. Did you have a conversation? Like what did he say? How did that conversation go?

[00:25:28] Katherine Ellison: So he was really open to becoming more of a flexitarian or reducatarian, both for the climate impact, as well as just health implications. We know that it’s healthy for us to eat more fruits and veggies, more legumes, more whole foods. And so he was definitely on board with that. When I approached him and wanted to start a plant-based treat company. He understood the vision and he understood the mission. He was actually the one to come up with the concept of planting a tree every time we sold a bag. And so that was a great idea that he was able to bring to really round out our core values of combating climate change. So he definitely understood the market and he thought it was a great idea.

And certainly, there was a little convincing that needed to happen. We have bootstrapped the company to date. So we have been using our own resources to fund the company. And so it was definitely a joint decision that we had to make as a family to decide to really bet on this idea. And bet that we could be first to market and fast to market. And when we launched it in March, we were the first plant-based treat company that made products that taste and smell like meat. And today we are still the only company that exclusively makes plant-based products. There are other people that have come on the market that are making plant-based treats that tastes like meat, but they also use things like salmon, eggs, other, Meat-based or animal-based proteins in their products. And there are also other brands who have meat-based products that have added plant-based products, but we are still the only a hundred percent plant-based company that is making meaty treats for our dogs. And we also plan to expand into cat as well.

[00:27:20] Jennifer Chua: So you did a Kickstarter and I’m sure you were able to get some feedback there from your customer base or your potential customer base, but when was the moment that you realized this could work?

[00:27:33] Katherine Ellison: We did our Kickstarter. We raised our money. We did our first formulation and we ran our first production. And I received in the first samples. I gave them to my dogs and my dogs absolutely went crazy over them. Like they were begging for more, they were doing tricks. They were really excited about the flavor of the treats. Some of my dogs are picky. Some of them aren’t picky, but just to see that initial reaction from them, Made me think, Hey, I think we have the recipe. Right? And so with our Kickstarter backers, when they would purchase a bag of our treats, we would also send them with a meat-based treat that was kind of similar to ours.

And we sent them home with, testing protocol. So we had them do two different tests. We had them do a first choice test, which is where you put our treats in one bowl and put our competitor treats in another bowl that were, meat-based you take your dog out of the room, you put the treats in the bowls and then you let your dog back in the room and you see what they choose first a number of times to make sure that there weren’t any bowl preferences, some dogs just prefer right bowls some dogs prefer left bowls. So we did that test and we also did just an acceptance test. Simply when you offer a treat to the dog, do they eat it? From our Kickstarter backers, we had over 97% acceptance rate, which means that over 97% of all dogs, when they’re offered our treat, they eat the treat. And then from our first choice test, over 72% of all dogs chose our plant-based treat first over an actual meat-based treat. And that was really exciting for us. The meat-based treat that we are testing with is actually a national brand that has very wide distribution. It’s a burger-flavored treat. And so when we heard that almost three out of four dogs chose our plant-based treat first, we knew that we had the smell right, because dogs make so many decisions based on smells.

And then with our acceptance tests, we knew that we really had that flavour. Because once they were trying our treat, there were wanting to continue eating our treat as well. That’s when we knew we had something that was going to be big. Because if the dogs don’t love your treats, the owner’s not going to go back and buy another bag.

[00:29:54] Jennifer Chua: What other feedback are you getting from your actual customers?

[00:29:59] Katherine Ellison: The number one thing that we hear is just that our dogs are obsessed with your treats. We hear things like our dogs will do their least favourite tricks to, in order to get your treats that they love every single flavour. That we put it on top of their food to encourage them to eat their food. And they gobble it up every single time. That they beg for more. And so that kind of feedback, just that the dogs are really loving the treats is wonderful for us, but more so we also get customers coming to us and saying, thank you for making a product like this, because I’ve been searching for something like this for so long, because maybe that owner is vegan or vegetarian and they want to be able to feed their dog, like they feed themselves. And so now they actually have a sustainable option and they’re excited to see the other products that Bright Planet is going to come out with because they know what’s going to align with their values and their dogs are going to love the taste as well.

Our product and our mission and our brand is really resonating with our target customer who is actually feeding a meat-based diet. Our target customer doesn’t feed beef products because they understand the carbon impact of beef, but they’re feeding like a fish-based diet or a poultry-based diet. And then they just want to have some really yummy treats that they feel good about giving their pets.

[00:31:24] Jennifer Chua: What do you think is the best option in terms of feeding your pet currently with what’s on the market in terms of sustainability?

[00:31:31] Katherine Ellison: There are so many different, great brands on the market. The way we feed our pets is also an extremely personal decision. And so there’s really no right or wrong way to feed your pets, especially from the Bright Planet perspective. We never will ask our customers to exclusively feed plant-based, it’s really just up to them what’s best for their pet and what the best decision is that they make with their veterinarian. We never ask for perfection. We only ask for progress. And small changes, and that really resonates with the people who love our treats. There are great brands on the market like wild earth. They’re a fully plant-based brand.

There’s another brand called Petaluma that they have a baked food that is plant-based, believe it’s a peanut butter flavour. There’s also companies that are trying to use more sustainable protein in their formulas. If you want to feed your dog a meat-based diet, if you look for locally caught fish or locally raised Meat they’re certifying bodies that will certify sustainable seafood. And that is now being used more in pet food. So there’s a lot of things that companies are doing to make even their meat-based products, more sustainable. So there’s really a shift and people are really looking for those types of certifications, if they’re feeding a meat-based diet, or if they feed a plant-based diet, there are so many great brands on the market today as well.

[00:33:02] Jennifer Chua: It says a lot about shifts in consumer behaviour, because even two generations ago, people were feeding their dogs like table scraps or kibble, but nothing special. And now we’re going towards sustainable or certified wild-caught fish. How has the experience of having a pet changed so much that we are now making these decisions about impact and health and everything for our dogs and cats? I just find this so interesting. Do you have anything to comment on that?

[00:33:35] Katherine Ellison: So the humanization of pets has been happening for a long time. We’re treating our pets more like family today than we ever have before. That change has been gradual, but especially with, the millennial generation, the gen Z generation, we are putting off having kids so early and instead people are having dogs. We’re really treating our pets as a member of our family. And because of that, our own values on how we feed ourselves are becoming more important to ourselves on how we feed our pets. And so that humanization trend, I mean, you see it everywhere. You see it in how we feed our dogs, how we dress our dogs, how we board our dogs, some dogs just don’t really just go to the traditional kennel of anymore. We have luxury resorts for dogs because our dogs are so important to us. And our pets are so important to us because they give us such great companionship and love. And so we want to treat them absolutely the best that we can. So that trend has been happening. We, the industry and people who watch trends in the industry, we know that that’s just going to continue to evolve and we’re going to continue to humanize our pets more, which in turn means that we’re going to spend more money on our pets, which is a really important, side of the pet industry.

For each individual pet, the owners are spending more per year than they have in the past. They’re spending more on treats on food, on veterinary care, on toys, all of that. And so that just continues to grow the market size. We also have different types of pet owners coming into the market. Younger pet owners, we have more people of colour that are owning pets. And so the types of people that own pets is actually getting greater. And we have lots more diversity in pet ownership as well. And so the industry will continue to grow and evolve and definitely shows no signs of slowing down and no signs of people reverting back to the way that they used to treat or feed their pets.

We’ll continue to see more innovation. More sustainable products. I mean, some of the exciting things that we have happening in consumables is that we have a number of companies in the pet space that are working on lab-grown meat, which is also something that’s happening in the human food space. And so soon in the pet industry, you’ll be able to buy treats or buy food for your pets, where it isn’t meat, but it’s been growing in a lab and. That’s going to come with a higher price point, but that’s going to also solve an important problem for certain pet owners who are wanting to feed meat to their pets, but they want it to be even more sustainable or humane. Really lab-grown meat is the most humane meat anyone could ever eat or feed their pets. And so there’s a lot of this innovation and a lot of exciting things happening in the industry right now.

[00:36:28] Jennifer Chua: About a decade ago, I worked in an office and one of the guys I worked with would get notifications on his phone. Alice went out for her walk, she really enjoyed her meal this morning. And I remember just thinking that was hysterical and then more so and more so you see these high-end doggy daycares like, you’re speaking about. So definitely we are treating our pets more like family members.

[00:36:54] Katherine Ellison: Yep. for sure. Both of my parents grew up on farms and so, they had a little bit of a different perspective on pets as well. And when we had pets growing up, I mean, they were spoiled rotten of course, but even the way that we treated our pets when I was growing up is very different than the way that I treat my pets today. My pets are my children. They’re our members of our family and their health and wellbeing and happiness is very important to us. And so we do everything that we can to make sure that they’re happy and healthy. That changes the way the products that we want to buy for them and the way that we treat them and all of that.

[00:37:35] Jennifer Chua: So if someone was going to try to make an impact in the pet space, what is a common reason that they might give up or walk away from this?

[00:37:42] Katherine Ellison: I mean, whenever you start a company, there is a monetary side of it that you have to be comfortable with. Especially when you think about creating a sustainable company. So our recyclable packaging is going to cost more than the packaging that we’re using today, but that’s a choice that we’re making.

So actually we will be taking a little bit of a margin hit, but we feel that making the change to a more sustainable packaging will benefit our bottom line down the road and help us gain more customers. So certainly when you think about creating a sustainable company, there are challenges. There are different hurdles. There are also opportunities like being able to be a certified B Corp or have a certification from the pet sustainability coalition that really shows that you’re a sustainable company, but those things also take time and money. And so having the resources to build a sustainable pet company, can be challenging as well.

There are a lot of great opportunities in the pet industry though, that you can take advantage of. This year I participated in the Minnesota cup, which is an entrepreneurship competition that’s put on by the University of Minnesota and we made it to the semi-finals in our division. There are different ways that you can win money. And what we were able to do with the Minnesota cup is we actually won the first evergreen and sustainable chemistry prize. And so that was awarded to us on behalf of the Minnesota pollution control agency. And so we were able to win some cash prizes and cash grants because we are a sustainable company. Also being a female founder. Having our business be women-owned, presents different opportunities for us to be able to apply for different grants and different programs, which we’ve taken advantage of. So while there are certainly challenges, starting a company or starting a sustainable company in the pet space, there’s also incredible opportunities.

And the. pet industry is very friendly. People are staying in the industry for a long time because they love what they do. They care about pets. There’s A lot of great networking opportunities and a lot of people that are really willing to help. And so we’ve been really fortunate to meet a lot of great people that have helped us along in our journey.

[00:40:12] Jennifer Chua: A couple episodes back. We had a chat with Brianna and Kristy from Decade Impact. And they work with B Corp’s or businesses specifically trying to achieve B Corp certification, which is a road that I’ve been going on this entire year. And it’s tremendously difficult. But the interesting thing about B Corp specifically or sustainable businesses is working together is so mutually advantageous, that it just helps lift the sustainability industry up. Are you finding other maybe not B Corp, but other brands in the pet industry in that space that you’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with?

[00:40:48] Katherine Ellison: There are definitely some plant-based brands that we’ve spoken to and we’re able to share mutual information with, there are some great communities of startup companies. So we have a, there’s a handful of great pet care startups in the twin cities that I am networked in with. And so we have a great kind of support system of local companies. I haven’t had as much of a chance to network with other plant-based companies, but really more so just network and find support from other startup founders, other female founders, other local founders, and really find ways that we can support each other and help each other out.

[00:41:29] Jennifer Chua: What about our children? You mentioned before that you’re not a parent of children, but you’re a parent of pets. How do you think that this work that you are doing and this journey that you’re on, how do you think this impacts them?

[00:41:41] Katherine Ellison: Children that are being raised today are going to be raised to be the most conscious generation that we’ve had and they’ll make important decisions, important buying decisions, put important policies in place so that we really can help combat climate change and make our world more sustainable. And so when they see their parents mirroring sustainable behaviour, they’ll be able to do the same and they definitely will understand the impacts and really the younger generation is already having such a voice and speaking out and demanding change and demanding policies. And when we think about how much meat we consume in the world. As I mentioned before, our pets consume so much meat and the younger generation is also going to just continue this trend of pet ownership, pet humanization, wanting sustainable products. And so their choices and their decisions and their voice is going to make such an impact in the way that we choose to nourish our pets, which in turn can better nourish our planet. We want to make these products and build this company and have this company be a nationally recognized CPG brand so that when you go into the store and you say, I want to buy a, plant-based treat, you think of Bright Planet. And that’s really our goal. And our goal is of course to be a profitable company, but we believe That we can be profitable and sustainable and give back and really have a strong message and make the world a better place just by making plant-based treats for pets.

[00:43:17] Jennifer Chua: So if you want to feed your pet, some delicious plant-based treats, where can we find you?

[00:43:23] Katherine Ellison: So in the USA today, you can find our treats on our website, which is brightplanetpet.com. We also sell on Amazon. Next year you will be able to find Bright Planet treats in 500 Pet Co.. You will also be able to find us in Hy-Vee stores in the Midwest. And today we are available in almost 400 Pet Valu stores all across Canada. We have a store locator on our website. You can pop in your zip code and you can find the store closest to you, whether you are in the United States or you’re in Canada.

[00:43:59] Jennifer Chua: And I did use the store finder and I did manage to find some, and my new puppy loves them.

[00:44:05] Katherine Ellison: Oh, wonderful. I’m so glad to hear that.

[00:44:08] Jennifer Chua: If you want to learn more about Katherine and her 100% plant-based pet treats visit brightplanetpet.com. In Canada? These sustainable vegan allergy-friendly treats are in-store at your local Pet Valu. You can follow along with Katherine on her mission to save the earth together with your pet one treat at a time on Facebook or Instagram @brightplanetpet

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