For those unfamiliar with the size of the pet food industry, it can be shocking to find out that Americans spend around $31 billion annually to feed their pets. However, when accounting for the fact that almost 1 in every 2 US households own a pet, it becomes clearer as to how that market size came to be. While it seems obvious that the industry has a large influence on the American economy, the production of pet food is affecting other areas as well. In trending reports, it is becoming an increasingly important consideration that animal agriculture contributes to global warming. And as a result of raising billions of animals for the sole purpose of consumption, at least 0.65 giga-tons of CO2 emissions are produced each year, over two-thirds of the Earth’s agricultural land is used, and water sources are polluted. When focusing specifically on dog food, the majority of products are derived from chicken, beef, lamb, and other animal products. Unfortunately, this means that many pet food brands are contributing to the climate crisis as well. As co-founders Haley Russell and Laura Colagrande looked to start a pet food brand of their own, they kept this concern central to their mission. Their solution was Chippin, a company that makes snacks for dogs, albeit made with planet-friendly cricket protein.
We had the opportunity to chat with Haley and Laura to learn how Chippin’s business came to be and what the company is doing to further its dedication to sustainability.
Chippin founders have a personal connection to the problem
The journey for Chippin began when Haley realized she couldn’t find food options that were tasty, healthy, and planet-friendly for her dog, Wren. However, when she discovered Wren loved eating crickets, it paved the way for an entirely untapped market.
From here, Haley and Laura created an entire company around the environmental need to modernize nutrition for pets. Turning to crickets as a food source, Chippin is working to make pet foods from a sustainable source of proteins. Needless to say, it is an idea that’s one of the first of its kind.
Haley and Laura tell us that they’re driven by “the opportunity to bring a first of its kind suite of food products that are good for pets and planet.” They clearly understand the ramifications that the development of “traditional” pet food brings to the environment and are on a journey to prove that good pet food and sustainability shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
And they’ve delivered on that mission too. The co-founders told us that to date, over 5000 dogs have enjoyed Chippin, and the company has a less than 1% return rate. Only in their first year of operation, it sounds like the founders’ personal connection to the issue they’re trying to solve is paying off for them.
Forging unconventional partnerships
Outside of innovating on product, Chippin also has several interesting partnerships that have helped it get ahead. So far, there has been no indication that the company is currently working with traditional distributors like Petco, though it has a number of other notable partnerships with organizations across the globe to meet the environmental goals. Through collaboration with several other companies, the sustainable pet food brand is able to thrive in many different areas. Here are just three of them:
- Packaging: Since its start, Chippin funded a program with TerraCycle to make its packaging recyclable. As a result, the company earned the highest level of Safe Quality Foods certifications thanks to its packaging and production partners.
- Safety and Nutrition: Sourcing from the USA and Canada, Chippin is able to utilize quality ingredients to create human-grade cricket protein. Producing best-in-class foods, their products provide two times the amount of protein as traditional animal meats and more omega 3s than salmon.
- Availability: Working with WeWork and local pet shops, Chippin expanded their company across the United States. As a result, they are now available for purchase from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles to Portland. Not to forget, consumers are also able to buy directly from the company online as well.
Lots of work left to do for Chippin and beyond
Chippin is an environmentally-friendly pet owner’s dream. As a whole, the company is providing what can become a go-to resource for sustainable pet food. However, their work is only one part of a larger puzzle.
Many companies are shifting to (and pioneering) sustainable ideas (cue Beyond Meat, among others). However, there is a desperate need for more effort. With major change needed before 2050, 2040, or even 2030, environmental solutions need to be created in every aspect of human living. Chippin is doing its part and could be at the frontier of the sustainability trend catching on in the pet food industry.
Specifically, Haley and Laura tell us that “Each Chippin snack bite saves the equivalent of approximately a gallon of water in comparison to a traditional dog treat powered by beef or chicken. Chippin expects to save a quarter of a million gallons of water in its first year.” Despite this impressive metric, it’s going to be far from enough to truly move the needle; other companies need to get involved in start prioritizing sustainability as they do business in the pet food industry.
Funding and support roundup for Chippin
Since Chippin was founded, it has had several funding wins:
- $55,000 won from a UPenn design competition (presumably in the form of a non-equity grant)
- $45,000 from University VCs Rough Draft Ventures and Dorm Room Fund (under First Round Capital)
- An undisclosed amount from angel investors, including Allison Barr Allen, Head of Global Product Operations at Uber and Angel Investor at Trail Run Capital
— Allison Barr Allen (@abarrallen) July 30, 2019
With the drive to capitalize on the trend of making pet food sustainable, as well as promising early-stage results, Chippin is a company that we’re eager to continue to follow and update you on.