Alternative proteins are a hot topic in the pet food world right now. As sustainable agriculture and the desire for expanded options that mimic human food choices continue to grow, more pet food and treat companies are taking a look at their plant-based options. Enter vegan pet treat company Bright Planet Pet, which makes 100% plant-based dog treats that claim to taste and smell like real meat.
“I was inspired by the plant-based meat trend in the human food industry,” says Bright Planet Pet Founder and CEO Katherine Ellison. “We know that human food trends migrate into the pet industry in three to five years. I saw this trend happening so strongly in the food that we eat, and that inspired me to craft our first treat, Better Burg’r, a plant-based burger for dogs. American dogs and cats eat so much meat that if they were a country, they would rank fifth in terms of meat consumption. We know that making changes toward a plant-based diet is healthy for us and better for the planet, and pet parents can now make those small changes in the way they treat their pets. We know that our future will include less meat, both for us and our pets.”
A year-and-a-half of differentiation
Bright Planet’s dog treats have been on the market for roughly 18 months and can be found in over 1,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada. The company’s main differentiator, according to Ellison, is the signature meaty taste and smell of the treats, created via proprietary plant-based flavors.
“We exceeded our sales forecast for 2021, our first year in business, and we’re forecasting 5X revenue growth for 2022,” says Ellison. “Our brick-and-mortar sales velocity grows each month, and we’re seeing 15% growth month-over-month on Amazon. Many customers are finding us organically either in store or on Amazon as we have done little to no advertising, but our Amazon reviews speak for themselves!”
Partnerships with PetValu, Petco, Central Pet Distribution and KeHe Distributors have allowed Bright Planet to expand its retail reach.
“We’re happy that so many retailers are able to see our vision and are excited to partner with us,” says Ellison. “Our goal going into 2023 is to have commitments for 2,500 stores. We believe our biggest opportunities are on the shelf at pet specialty stores, where consumers are browsing and looking for high-quality treats, but also at grocery stores, where we buy our own plant-based meat.” In 2022, Bright Planet moved into the natural grocery channel, a move that aligns with the company’s target customer and distribution strategy.
A sustainable focus and an eco-conscious goal
Sustainability practices are taking the pet food industry by storm, and it’s always been a focus of Bright Planet’s business strategy.
Bright Planet Pet is a Pet Sustainability Accredited Business through the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) that focuses strongly on reducing its carbon “pawprint,” according to the company. Sustainable ingredients make up a significant part of that goal, and Bright Planet claims that its treats create up to 90% less carbon emissions and use up to 68% less water than a comparable meat-based treat. On the packaging side (another major component of the company’s sustainability initiatives), Bright Planet is working on transitioning to a store drop-off recyclable bag and fully recyclable packaging materials. Both treats and packaging are made locally to reduce transportation-related CO2 emissions.
Current and future goals at Bright Planet Pet
As a new company, Bright Planet’s strategies focus on growth, both on store shelves and in terms of brand awareness, and Ellison says they’re looking forward to digging further into their niche in the pet treats market.
“We are working on lots of product development and we’ll continue to delight customers with our innovative plant-based treats,” she says. “We’ll continue our strong commitment to sustainability by using novel plant-based ingredients, planting more trees, continuing to evolve the packaging we are using and by finding new ways for us to be a more sustainable company, including pursuing company and product certifications.
“There are so many exciting things happening in the pet treat category,” says Ellison. “From insect proteins to cultured meat, there is a lot of innovation happening around alternative and sustainable proteins. Treats are a great way to test out new ingredients and gain customer feedback before taking the dive into creating food, so I expect we’ll continue to see a lot of innovation [in the market].”
For now, the company plans to stick with treats and sees a solid future in expansion.
“The future is definitely bright at Bright Planet,” says Ellison. “We’ll continue to expand distribution across the U.S. and Canada, and explore export opportunities. We plan to focus on treats, and we want to create plant-based alternatives for any meat-based treat or chew you can buy. Our goal is to be the go-to plant-based treat company for consumers who are looking for sustainable solutions — we want to be the Impossible Foods of the pet industry.”
Selling treats, planting trees
In 2021, Bright Planet Pet planted 15,581 trees via its “Buy a Bag, Plant a Tree” program, where for every bag of treats purchased the company made a donation to plant one tree. In 2022, the program evolved to donating 1% of sales to The Eden Reforestation Projects, a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to plant trees in areas of deforestation while lifting the communities they plant in out of poverty. The organization currently works in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, has planted hundreds of millions of trees and has empowered hundreds of local employees with fair wages.
“We really like The Eden Reforestation Projects,” says Bright Planet Founder and CEO Katherine Ellison. “Their mission really aligns with us. As a company we’re concerned about our CO2 emissions, and part of factory farming is tearing down forests and trees, so [we wanted to know] what we can do as a company to help replant those areas that have been deforested.”
As of September 2022, Bright Planet has planted 39,746 trees.
Headquarters: Bloomington, Minnesota, USA
Officers: Katherine Ellison, founder and CEO; Dave Ellison, co-founder and president
Brands: Bright Planet
Website/Social Media: www.brightplanetpet.com; @brightplanetpet on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
Notable: You can find Bright Planet treats in all 50 states!