The fresh pet food segment may still be small, but it is also one of the fastest-growing. Pet owners everywhere are looking to provide their pets with more, and that desire is proving to be a boon for those in the superpremium pet food space.
“We are proud to be a growing, profitable company during [current] economic hardships,” says Alannah Covington, founder of Rocky’s. “We are currently pacing at a 60% growth rate in the first quarter of 2023. We are estimating to increase profits 240% with a profit margin of 66% per bone sold. We are super excited and thankful for the continuous growth we see at Rocky’s!”
Dog food with a message: Pets are family
As pet owners continue their quest for more inclusive feeding experiences for their pets, they provide plenty of opportunity for Rocky’s to get out their own message.
“Rocky’s Canine Cuisine is redefining how we feed our pet family,” says Covington. “Rocky’s uses ingredients that are grown organically without the use of synthetic pesticides or other harmful chemicals. We make dog food that is sourced from ethical suppliers so you can feel good about our food, knowing that it was produced in a way that is responsible and humane.”
As a small, subscription- and online-based company, customer trust and loyalty are paramount to Rocky’s. The company focuses on ingredient transparency to back its claims and to keep pet parents informed with regard to what they’re feeding their furry friend. Three available formulations — Paw Lickin’ Chicken, Slammin’ Surf & Turf and Tail Swingin’ Turkey — highlight limited and recognizable ingredient profiles. Surf & Turf, for example, has just five ingredients: Wild-caught salmon, sweet potatoes, kale, ground beef and quinoa. All formulations are nutritionally complete and meet Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards.
“We strive to deliver high-quality products and services while fostering a culture of continuous improvement,” says Covington. “We would like to continually innovate and offer new and unique products that attract customers looking for variety and novelty. This includes developing new entrées, formulations and packaging.”
Rocky’s packaging is a particular point of pride for the company.
“Rocky’s visual identity is important to us,” says Covington. “When you look at our brand, we want you to know that Rocky’s is the only choice for your pup. Our packaging sets us apart from our competitors. Our 12-ounce bone-shaped packaging is the only kind in the dog food realm. Our packaging is eye-catching, distinctive, durable and preserves the freshness of our food!”
Standing out in a crowded space
Rocky’s intended to begin as a brick-and-mortar brand, but when the COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020, plans changed and the company instead launched online. The internet can make it difficult to stand out, since it can be challenging to both find your audience and make sure your products are seen by that audience.
“Being online is a crowded marketplace,” says Covington. “Customers are more likely to choose a store that offers quick and efficient delivery, so competitive advantage is key. Our initial plan was to start off as a brick-and-mortar, but since the start of COVID-19 things took a turn. We realized that we could provide the same service on a smaller scale, so we took the opportunity at hand and jumped straight to online orders and creating a digital presence, which has exceeded our expectations.”
Rocky’s has a story to tell, which helps when you’re trying to differentiate your brand in any kind of space.
“Being the only African-American-woman-led organic dog food company that provides human-grade food that is complete and balanced for your pup is an accomplishment for Rocky’s Canine Cuisine,” says Covington. “The pet food industry is super saturated with products that mimic one another, so providing a new standard that is healthy and provides your pup fresh, organic food means the world to me.”
Covington also hasn’t given up on getting her brand onto physical shelves; now that things are opened back up she’s looking for opportunities to expand the company’s reach.
“Being invited to be a vendor in the Charlotte [North Carolina, USA] community for so many events is also an accomplishment for Rocky’s,” says Covington. “I think it’s pretty cool that those in my city find it important to have Rocky’s in attendance, and it’s also an opportunity to have one-on-one contact with owners and their fur babies. We are always learning and growing, so it is a fun time learning the needs and concerns of paw-rents to help shape our business.”
The next step is to translate community interest into grocery store shelf space.
“Attaining Rocky’s on shelves in grocery stores is the biggest opportunity we see,” says Covington. “This would be super beneficial for our business as it would increase visibility and awareness, convenience for customers, sales, and an opportunity for customer feedback.”
The future of Rocky’s
Covington feels that Rocky’s is meeting a lot of what pet owners want right now in terms of their pets’ health and wellness from a nutrition perspective.
“A lot of companies are realizing that pet owners are taking their pets’ health and diets more seriously, so using quality ingredients is key,” she says. “With so many resources at hand, my prediction is that pet owners will start investing and educating themselves on what is best for their pup. In today’s world, dogs stand for so much more than a pet. Dogs provide companionship, health benefits, protection assistance and learning opportunities. Their presence can bring joy and comfort to people’s lives, so owners are doing more to expand their [pets’] lives. Starting with a healthy diet is key!”
Headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Officers: Alannah Covington, founder
Brand: Rocky’s Canine Cuisine
Notable: Alannah Covington coined the term “petrepreneur.”