of online competitors cannot ignore the trend. However, some retailers, like Andrew Kim, co-founder of
Healthy Spot, which has stores in Southern California,
are not worried.
Kim sees online and subscription pet food purveyors
as competition but welcomes the “education and awareness” they bring. Still, he feels his stores are “insulated” in
that he carries “the same or better foods within his walls.”
“Ollie may not think that their food is a niche market,
but the cost of that food at that price point versus finding comparable alternatives you could pick up at a store
I think does define a niche,” he said.
Services, such as The Farmer’s Dog, for which, according to its website, “smaller dogs start at less than $3
a day,” might not appeal to many price-conscious pet
Kim also points to the subscription treat box craze of a
few years ago as a cautionary tale for those dipping their
toes into the pet food subscription pool.
“In a short period, there seemed to be 20 different
variations of the subscription box where they would ship
treats or toys, and how many are there now?”
Kim admits he is on the “outside looking in” when
it comes to the subscription pet food business, but said,
“The market is probably much smaller on a national basis
than what I think they may be predicting.”
While Kim might not be worried about a subscription
pet food model, a similar concept with brick-and-mortar
locations could be cause for concern. Down the street
from Healthy Spot is JustFoodForDogs (JFFD), which bills
itself as “the world’s first dog kitchen.”
The food is cooked, supplements and omega oils are
added, everything is cooled to make sure it stays below
a certain temperature, and then it gets packaged, vacu-
um-sealed and frozen.
Dog owners are welcome to walk into any of the kitchens and purchase any of the daily diets, while they need a
note from a veterinarian for prescription diets.
Perhaps the biggest difference between JFFD and pet
food subscription businesses is that JFFD offers an interactive experience and interconnectedness between store
personnel, owners and pets that a subscription business
just can’t match through customer service offered online
and over the phone.
“If we’re cooking something that day, [dogs] can
sample the food. It is like the dog’s little special place to
come,” said Don Inman, manager of JFFD’s location in
Manhattan Beach. “A lot of the neighborhoods we’re in
… you have people out walking their dogs; it is kind of
just the normal routine.
“We have customers who have been Ollie clients and
decided they would switch to us because of the sheer fact
that they can walk in and pick up food,” Inman said.
LIMITATIONS TO CUSTOMIZATION
Still, subscription pet food companies say that their
ability to customize clients’ pet diets is driving con-
“If your dog has specific dietary restrictions that do
not fit into either our prescribed diets or daily diets, we’ll
customize diets for your dog,” Inman said.
By comparison, Ollie and The Farmer’s Dog are offering customized meal plans for dogs based on data entered
online by the pet owner, such as gender, neutered, spayed
or intact, activity level, allergies, age, weight, etc., rather
than customized food for every dog.
Foods can be customized to incorporate unusual proteins (venison, duck, goat), or by offering low-fat or non-allergy recipes or through portion sizes based on a dog’s
weight, activity level and age.
However, the appeal of the customization aspect of
these offerings might be overstated. Industry participants
suspect it’s the convenience and peace of mind of having
fresh, nutritious, safe pet food show up like clockwork
on a pet owner’s doorstep that is the true differentiator
between pet food subscription and other pet food models.
If companies like Ollie and The Farmer’s Dog continue
to grow in leaps and bounds, Reese sees a risk that larger
players in the pet food industry “can just make it part of
their service offering and create a competitive service.”
“They’re better capitalized, and they have a larger consumer base,” he said.
“I don’t think [pet food subscription companies] are
going to take over 50 percent of the pet food market,” Reese said. “There is absolutely a market for this out there.
But can one of these companies become a meaningful
player? Sure, I think so.”
CON TINUED FROM PAGE 6
CALIFORNIA BECOMES FIRST
STATE TO REQUIRE PET STORES
TO SELL RESCUE PETS ONLY
A landmark bill banning the sale of mill-bred
dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores was signed
by California Governor Jerry Brown on Oct.
13. AB 485 is the first statewide bill to ban
The bill will become effective on Jan. 1,
2019, and enforce the following regulations:
• The sale of dogs, cats or rabbits in pet stores
in California is prohibited.
• All adoptable pets need sufficient documentation about their 501(c)( 3) source.
• All pet stores must visibly display a sign
disclosing the 501(c)( 3) source the animal
• A pet store operator who violates these
regulations is subject to a civil penalty of
$500 per animal and charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense.
After discovering the state’s spend of $250
million annually to house and euthanize animals in California shelters, the bill was introduced by assembly members Patrick O’Donnell and Matt Dababneh, and sponsored by
Social Compassion In Legislation (SCIL).
Similar bans were already enacted in
more than 30 California cities before the bill
In August, O’Donnell spoke to Pet Product
News (PPN), contending that one “unifying
statewide law will make it simpler for pet
stores to comply rather than having to deal
with the current morass of local ordinances.”
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
(PIJAC) has been vocal about its stance on the
bill. In August, Mike Bober, president and
CEO of PIJAC, told PPN: “California’s pet
and consumer protection regime is already
substantial,” Bober said. “[The pet store bans]
dangerously lump all breeders together un-
der the ‘puppy mill’ epithet and abuse the
However, with similar bans already en-
acted in many cities across the state, many
California pet store owners and operators
supported the bill.
Andrew Kim, founder and CEO of Healthy
Spot, a chain with locations in Southern California, spoke in support of the bill at both the
Assembly and Senate this year.
“I am thrilled to hear that AB 485 is now
California law and codifies the best business
practice of a humane pet store,” Kim said.
“We know this humane model can be successful because this is how we have operated our
stores since day one and are thriving without
the need to sell a single animal.
“Now banning an outdated business
practice of selling pets will positively impact our community, reduce overcrowding
in the shelters and provide more adoption
options through rescue partners,” Kim added. “Making AB 485 the law was the right
and smart business decision for California
so that our pets, businesses and communities can benefit.”
PIJAC COVERS MULTIPLE LEGISLATION ISSUES DURING
TOWN HALL AT AQUATIC EXPERIENCE
Hot-button legislation issues in the pet industry dominated the town hall-like
atmosphere during the annual Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)
Aquatic Experience Legislative Update, which was held at the Aquatic Experience show at the Schaumburg Convention Center in Schaumburg, Ill., in
Hundreds of Aquatic Experience attendees—including aquatic and fish
hobbyists, full-time professionals, retailers and industry experts—were on
hand for updates regarding the Hawaii ornamental fishing industry and
state-level aquatics and invasive species issues that are being tackled by lawmakers and the industry in Michigan.
“Every year, hundreds of people nationwide come to the PIJAC Legislative
Update,” said moderator Robert Likins, PIJAC’s vice president of government
affairs. “This year was no different, except that the focus was much sharper
due to the threats facing the industry.”
Attorney Jim Lynch addressed court decisions that could close much or all
of Hawaii’s ornamental fishing industry during a phone call. Andrew Rhyne,
Ph.D., an expert in marine biology, described a study he is conducting on the
accuracy of the accepted method for detecting the use of cyanide in fishing
during another phone call.
In addition to Rhyne’s work, Chris Buerner of Quality Marine described
how a PIJAC-funded study examining the detection of cyanide in ornamental
fish could better identify when it has been used.
Likins, Buerner and other speakers were in-person for their presentations.
Preuss Pets owner Rick Preuss, who is based in Michigan and also runs a pet
industry radio show, told attendees about challenges in his state related to
invasive species and other aquatics issues.
Sandy Moore, president of Segrest Farms and co-chair of the PIJAC
Aquatics Committee, spoke on industry funding of aquaculture efforts and
the limitations and ecological benefits of both farm-raised and wild-caught
Buerner closed out the Legislative Update by asking attendees to donate to
PIJAC’s efforts in Hawaii. He, Moore, PIJAC board chair Laura “Peach” Reid
and other town hall attendees presented PIJAC with donations to assist with
the association’s fight against industry opponents.
“This funding is necessary to fight two recent court decisions that may shut
down Hawaii’s professional and hobby fishers, as well as to work with state
officials on an environmental impact study,” said Buerner and Moore after
the Legislative Update. “These alone will easily cost the industry more than
$200,000—in addition to activists’ efforts in Maine, Michigan and elsewhere.”