Episode 28: Katherine Ellison – Bright Planet Pet

Katherine Ellison

Bright Planet Pet is the first company to create plant-based treats for dogs that taste like real meat. Their first flavor is called the Better Burg’r and it tastes like a grilled hamburger! Coming soon are their two other signature flavors, Better Brat and Better BBQ Chick’n.

Their products help take animals out of the supply chain and aid in sustainability efforts. Every time they sell a bag, they donate to the Eden Reforestation Project to plant a tree in an area of deforestation around the world.


Grab Bright Planet Pet’s plant-based dog treats for your pooch!

Visit their website at www.brightplanetpet.com.


Follow Bright Planet Pet on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brightplanetpet/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brightplanetpet/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brightplanetpet

Hi, I’m Katherine Ellison and you’re tuned into the animal innovations show, you’ve tuned into the Animal innovation show where we feature people, products, services and ideas that are helping animals and the people who care for them live better lives if it’s innovative and if it helps animals, you can find it here first. So get ready. Here comes this week’s newest innovation for animals. Excellent. Introduction Catherine. So tell us who you are and how you’re innovating and helping animals. Sure, I am the founder and Ceo of Bright Planet Pet. We are based in Minneapolis Minnesota, and we are the first company to ever make plant based treats for dogs that tastes like real meat. Oh, I love that. So, you guys are really trying to make a difference out here now, aren’t you? Yeah, definitely. Um, we’re really focused on sustainability, climate change and bringing plant based options to pet parents and dogs. Yeah, so tell me more about this because I know plant based, I mean, I myself in Plant based right, we haven’t quite done that yet with our animals, but why Plant based why is this the angle that you’re going down? Yeah that’s a great question. So we’ve seen in the past couple of years the popularity of plant based meat alternatives for humans like companies like beyond burger and impossible burger. And there have been a number of studies or surveys that have been done in about a quarter of all the U. S. Is working on actively reducing their meat consumption. So this is a really large portion of the United States and we know that a lot of our U. S. Households have dogs. So I decided that you know there’s that intersection of what humans eat and what they feed their dogs. And I saw an opportunity and wanted to bring something to market now, as you said, I mean plant based and in vegan and there’s lots of obviously different variations and stuff to this. And I have heard that this is an up and coming trend, I guess an animal diets as well. So it sounds like what I’m hearing is correct, right? This is something that more people are looking to do for their animals. Yes, definitely. And you can see that by the number of plant based dog foods that are coming out, there’s a number of established pet food brands like wild earth halo, even the natural balance vegetarian formula that are on the market that are growing market share. But then there’s also new companies coming in with cans with dry food. And so there is a, there is a strong interest in, you know, feeding whole plant based diet or maybe feeding just a portion of plant based diet to help your dog’s health and reduce their carbon paw prints. That’s my favorite word. I like that. That’s a new one. I’ve not heard that one before. That must be one that you’ve come up with. Yes, very cool. I like that. So, I mean, I got to tell you the number one question I had was how do you know that they taste like meat? I mean, you must have had to do a lot of testing with these. Yeah, So are treats, they taste like real meat. So they’re flavored with a proprietary vegan blend that has the taste and smell of meat. So we take our based formula that is very healthy chickpea flour, brown rice, sweet potato, et cetera. And then we add in some of those vegan flavorings. And when you open the bag, you can really smell that meaty smell that media like barbecue smell. And so we know it tastes like meat because when we feed it one on one with a meat based product, many dogs, about 75% of all dogs will pick our plant based meat over an actual meat treat, wow, that’s pretty impressive. Yeah. We’ve also had humans eat our treats just to see if it tastes like meat. And the resounding conclusion is, well, it tastes like it tastes better than other dog treats. It kind of tastes like leather. That’s one that we got from a consumer at a dog park. So really, you know, that aroma really hits and the dog gets that sensory action of that meaty smell. Yeah. And our troops are soft and chewy is, there’s a little bit for them to chew on and it does have that nice meaty taste as well. Nice. So now you haven’t tried them yourself, I haven’t personally, but my husband has my father and random, it’s mostly random men at the dog park was going to say those guys right, interesting. Well, hey, at least you got somebody human right? That tried and said, well it does taste like me so that you can now make that claim. Right? Very cool. So now you started with treats, is the goal to eventually move into more kibble based food or canned food or is it are you really going to focus on the trees? So right now we’re focused on treat. So we’re focused on building out our assortment of the soft and chewy treats. So right now we have the better burger, which is our hamburger flavored treat. We also have a better brat which is a bratwurst flavored treat. And then we have um a better barbecue chicken treat, so that is tastes like roasted chicken with some yummy barbecue sauce on it. So we’re working on rounding out and having that three product assortment, and then later on down the road next year we want to expand into other types of treats. So biscuits jerky things of that nature. And then our long term plans are to potentially come out with a food, um a dry food. But that’s more in the future. We really want to focus now on establishing our brand helping to convert dogs to more plant based diets. We don’t necessarily promote a plant based diet, but just like for humans eating plant based is healthy if you eat it part of the time all the time until we feel the same way about our dogs that all dogs can benefit from eating some plant based. Yeah and I think that’s a really good point because there is a lot of research that’s now coming to market and being done on this and it is a much, much healthier and people always worry are they getting enough nutrients and things like that? But that’s not really a concern, right? Yeah. If you’re feeding a plant based diet that’s commercially made, it will meet all of your pets nutritional requirements. That is something that the brand manufacturers have to abide by. So it is a complete imbalanced diet if you wanted to feed a vegan or vegetarian commercial dog food, the difference with our product is that it’s a treat, so it’s not nutritionally complete imbalance because it’s not meant to be um it’s like if you decide to, you know, you wouldn’t eat hamburgers your whole life that wouldn’t be healthy for you, but you can certainly treat your dog with our hamburger flavored treats and you know, just give it to them on an occasional basis or used with training. Um One nice thing about our treats is that they’re only four calories, so that’s very low compared to other products on the market, so they’re good for maybe overweight dogs. And they’re also you know, you don’t have to feel like It’s not like you’re giving your dog a huge 300 calorie hamburger, you’re really just giving them like a nice little nibble that’s really locale. We know you love animals, but maybe you’re not sure how you can get involved to help save the hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs needlessly euthanized every year. Did you know? There’s one place you can go to to sign up as a volunteer transporter foster or even Social ambassador for Rescue animals. Joubert dot com is custom built by animal rescuers for animal rescuers. You simply create a profile and choose the ways that you can help. Joubert is proud to support more than 5000 rescues and shelters and more than 30,000 duper tears just like you working to save animals join us and you can save lives simply go to www dot google dot com to get started today. Now take a stick. I mean how long have you been doing this? When did you bring this product to the market? So I found a bright planet pet last July during the pandemic. I was just being all the crazy, I decided to start a company in the middle of the pandemic. But it’s been a really great journey. So we’ve been in business less than a year um in February we launched a Kickstarter campaign. We raised $10,000 on Kickstarter for pre orders. And since our Kickstarter has ended it’s been about six weeks since our Kickstarter has ended. And in that time frame we’re now selling direct to consumer on our website and on Amazon. But yeah, our product is very new to the market. Yeah, really cool. So now what made you want to do this? And you said obviously during the pandemic, you must have just been bored. Right, was it an opportunity, did you think, you know, hey, I need to do some more research into this? I was actually between jobs I was laid off last summer due to an acquisition of the company I worked for previously. So I found myself with a lot of time and I also had thought of this idea a couple of years prior and as I had been looking for a job, I was kind of talking to companies and, And I spoke to one company and they asked me like, what’s your great idea? And so I told them what my great idea was and they wanted, you know, me to bring that to life for them instead, I decided to bring it to life for myself. So I launched the company or 100% owned just by myself and my husband. We haven’t received any external funding besides our Kickstarter. So yeah, I had the time and I had the vision and so I decided to make it a reality. Yeah, and I think that’s really cool. Now, one of the things that’s really unique about you guys is that you didn’t just stop with making dog treats, right? The sustainable planet is something that’s really important to you. So tell people what else that you’re doing. Yeah, definitely. So sustainability is one of our core values as a company. So we practice sustainability by the ingredients that we use in our treats by every time you buy a bag of treats either from us or for a retailer or online, we make a donation to plant one tree. So we have established partnership with the Eden reforestation projects and they plant trees all over the world. So they work with different corporate partners as well as individual donors to take funds and bring those two different countries and they pay all of their workers a living wage and then the workers go ahead and plant these trees and really work on rebuilding their forests that have been deforested and also bringing that community and that healthy way of life to their community. And I really love that. I think that’s a really important aspect and it sounds like it was something that’s important to you to start the company with. This wasn’t something that kind of came to, this was like, hey, no, we’re going to do this from day one, definitely. Yeah, so we have a big mission, we want to help reduce these carbon paw prints of our dog friends and so we try in everything that we do to think about, how can we do that. And one of the reason that we decided to start planting trees was because I really wanted to launch with a compostable bag. But as a new company, we weren’t able to meet the M. O. Q. S on a compostable bag. So I wanted to find another way to really like bring home our mission of sustainability. And that’s when we decided to partner and plant trees. Now, as we look towards our other formulas that will be producing soon, we are going to launch with those in a post consumer recycled bag. So at that point we’ll have the ingredients, the packaging and the planting of the tree is so really driving home that message of sustainability. Now, did you guys come up with these formulas yourself? Are you are you a scientist on the side where you kind of try different variations of things? I’m not a food scientist, but I am an animal lover and I’ve worked in the pet industry for over 13 years, so I do know you know, fair share about nutrition, um I know about production. I used to cook for one of my dogs, a homemade traditional Chinese medicine diet, which actually really helped him with some of his problems. So in general I just have a a large amount of interest in pet nutrition and for the past five or six years I have been working in pet food and treat manufacturing, so I had enough knowledge and I knew what I was looking for. So I was able to develop kind of a based recipe of what I was looking for in my treats. And then I worked with a food scientist to help me refine that. And then we brought that to our current manufacturer and then they helped continue to refine it based on their production needs and some additional um little things that they thought we could add to the treat that would make it more tasty. Yeah I mean I’m super impressed. I mean you’ve done all this in less than a year now and you’re already selling on amazon. That’s pretty impressive. Oh thank you. Yeah so you know it sounds like your background and this really helped to jump start right get you going down this path and you’ve got a plan now for what you want to do in the next types of treats you want to do, compostable bag, giving back to the environment, what’s your road map look like? So a roadmap today we are working on retail distribution. Um, right now we’re primarily selling on e commerce, But we really want to focus on retail. Um, we know that our product is unique and different and we want you to be shopping at your pet store and you see our product you’re like, wait a second, what is this? This looks interesting and hey, it’s not that expensive. So that’s really important to us to that we have a really reasonable retail price are treats retail for 999. So we’re focusing on retail distribution were potentially going to be working with some national retailers to bring our products to the shelf as well as we’re having some international conversations. So at this point we’re focused on retail and building out that assortment, giving our two other flavors online and ready to go. And then from there we’ll see what happens, taking kind of trying to take baby steps. But our five year plan is to come out with two flavors of dog food, wow, that’s really impressive. It seems like you’ve come so far in just a short amount of time, I’m sure within five years you can definitely do that. Yeah, Well I’m, I’m lucky that I have a lot of great people in my network. So when I decided to create this company and create these treats, I basically knew and trusted everyone in my network that could help me bring this to life. So I worked with a lot of just friends that I’ve worked with previously um as well as some new companies to help me. Um so yeah, it’s been an awesome journey. Yeah, Now how did you come up with the name? Oh the name? Um I had had that name in my mind for a while, you know, we are really focused on the planet, obviously with our focus on sustainability and really, you know, when you think about what is a bright planet look like, like we want our earth to be bright, we wanted to be vibrant, we wanted to be inhabitable. Um it’s just kind of like this happy, happy name and it went together so well. So I just kind of thought of it off the top of my head. I did some other naming exercises, but then the real, the real ticket, as many entrepreneurs would know is that the domain was available. The instagram handle was available. The facebook facebook, it’s not trademarked, we are working on our trademark right now, so it just seemed to kind of fit perfectly together that this name was available in the pet space. There are some other companies that use Bright Planet once, like a solar company, but no one else in the pet industry. So it just seemed everything fall in place with the name Bright Planet. Yeah. And I really love the name and and it signifies what’s important to you right that it is sustainable and you’re trying to, you’re trying to pay it forward with planting of trees and that’s what I think is really different and unique about you guys now. Are there other plant based vegan based treats out there that you’re competing against her? Is this kind of a new category? 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So there are vegan treats on the market by some of the brands that I had referenced before, like wildearth halo as well as others, some of the natural balance vegetarian. And then there are vegan treats that are necessarily marketed as vegan, but they are vegan, so say a peanut butter cookie or maybe a blueberry biscuit a lot of times. Those will be vegan as well, but it’s not really brought to your attention as a consumer. So when I came up with the idea of two to make these plant based treats, one of the things that I wanted to do was really promote that it was plant based, like when you look at the package, you know, it’s plant based, you know, it’s a vegan recipe and so it just makes art easier to pick up than say, other treats that aren’t labeled as vegan or plant based. So it is competition in the begin treat market, but there is no competition in a vegan treat that tastes like meat. So we are the first ones to come out and do something like that. So we think there is a huge opportunity, our biggest competitors, we actually consider it to be meat based treats. I was going to say, you know, you can say they’re human tested, dog approved right, since you had people trying them. But no, and that totally makes sense. And I can imagine if I’m buying truths from my dog, if I saw meat based ones and and plant based ones, I know I would pick the plant based ones right? As long as as long as he likes them and you know, he sees him as a treat. We’ve had friends that use ice cubes. They, those, those treats for the dogs and the dogs think it’s great, right? They don’t taste like much, but our dog kind of goes, yeah, and I’ll hold out for the better stuff. So I have to I have to give your treat to try and and see what he thinks, definitely. Yeah, the awesome thing about our treats too is that we have a really high level of acceptance on our treats. So our acceptance level is currently at about 98%. So they really, what does that mean? The dogs will eat them, meaning Exactly. So that means that when you present one of our, our treats to a dog, you only give them that option. One of our better burger treats, about 98% of dogs will eat it. Um, you know, they won’t spit it out, they won’t refuse it. And so that’s a really good acceptance level and we’re really proud of that because we have people telling us every day on social media that are treats, are there dogs new favorite, they won’t even eat their old favorite treats, they only back for our treats. And so we really kind of nail that flavor combination and the dogs are definitely loving them. Yeah, that’s gotta make you feel really good that you’ve done something that the dogs really like, right, definitely. Yeah. So, you know, taste is king when it comes to pet food and treats. And so if you don’t have that taste profile that the dog is going to be drooling over, you really don’t have much to go on. You know, consumers aren’t going to go to the store and buy your product again. So having that confirmation that dogs truly like enjoy our treat is amazing. And then in addition, the owner has this great feeling of they’re picking a healthier treat for their dog and for the planet. So it’s really reinforced in multiple ways through the dog as well through the pet parents. Very cool. I think it’s really amazing what you’ve done in under a year. If people want to learn more about you, if they want to buy the treats, where can they go? Yeah, they can go to Bright Planet Pet dot com and you can buy direct from our website. Our products are also available on amazon and uh, in the twin cities were in a few local co ops. Um, as I mentioned before, we’re working on our retail distribution. So if you follow us on instagram at Bright Planet Pet, you can see all of our new store alerts. Very cool. Well Catherine, I really appreciate you coming on today. Is there anything else you want to mention before? Wrap things up? Well, thank you for having me chris I just want to encourage everyone to try plant based, even if you have a dog that eats a meat diet, um, or you have a dog when you eat steak, they’re just craving that steak still bad. Just pick up a bag of ours and try it and see if your dog likes it and if they do like it, then start incorporating some plant based treats. You don’t have to feed a plant based diet to eat or treats at all. Yeah, I love that. Anything that’s a really important thing for people to remember because plant based is definitely healthier for you for them for the planet. There’s a lot of, a lot of positive benefits. People can just google and figure that out, definitely. And we’re always here as a resource that people have questions, our email addresses. Hello at Bright Planet Pet dot com. If you want to have a discussion or ask any questions about our treats, I’m more than happy to help awesome. Well, and we’ll remind our viewers and listeners before we go that if they know somebody I should talk to or feature on the show, whether it’s a product, a service or even just an idea that’s not yet in market, go to innovations that show and I will have the mind and we’ll talk about it. So thank you again, Katherine for coming out. I really appreciate it. Thank you Chris. Thanks for joining us for the animal innovations show. If you want to volunteer to help animals, check out Dilbert dot com where you can join tens of thousands of do for tears, supporting rescues and shelters around the world to help animals. And if you know if something or someone innovative that’s helping animals, let us know by going to www. Dot innovations dot show


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