Pet Age recently spoke with Alex Waite, co-founder of Shameless Pets, a company that turns unused food into ingredients for making dog treats.
How is Shameless Pets doing its part to promote sustainability and an eco-friendly culture?
We started our brand to make it easy for anyone to contribute to a more sustainable future without having to make any radical changes. One of the largest hurdles to promoting a sustainable culture is consumer behavior change. We do the heavy lifting in the background so our customers can make a difference by simply purchasing our treats.
Internally, we hold ourselves accountable to a few brand promises. First, we always set out to make it meaningful. Our original goal was to save a pound of food waste for every case sold and we achieved that with our original five flavors. Next, as an evolving brand in a growing space, we also promised to push the limits. This comes through in two ways: one is by constantly increasing the percentage of upcycled ingredients in our product—we’re now closer to two pounds of food saved per case—and the other is never being afraid of finding new ingredients to upcycle. Finally, we wouldn’t be here without our partners, so supporting them is vital. Many count on us to help them find ways to decrease their waste and open up new opportunities to help cover costs of growing food we all consume.
What planning and research went into creating the nine varieties of dog treats?
We have a guiding principle when we set out to create a new variety. We believe that a treat shouldn’t just be empty calories and full of stuff that is inexpensive, or you wouldn’t eat yourself. Our first priority is using an upcycled ingredient as our feature flavor. Since upcycling is our mission, this makes sense, and it also adds a lot of excitement to the process. It quickly becomes like one of those cooking shows where we’re each trying to come up with the tastiest way to use the ingredient. We’ll land on a flavor and then I role up my sleeves. I refine the ingredient deck down to the essentials and allows that signature flavor to shine through. Then, a ridiculous amount of research goes into identifying the right ingredient or combination of ingredients to produce the functional benefit we’re looking to achieve. Finally, we perform the most critical step in the process—the taste test. If our dogs love them, we know we have a winner!
Which of your dog treats have been most popular with consumers?
We definitely have a lot of fun coming up with unique flavors that sound really good to us, while also being on the leading trend of treat flavors. It’s really validating that our signature flavor, the one that actually started it all, Lobster Rollover, is our best seller. From there, we received overwhelming feedback from retailers and customers that we needed to add a meat flavor. The obvious fan favorite was bacon, but we needed to elevate it a bit. About the same time, we were trying to figure out how to use upcycled bananas in a treat, so we threw in some peanut butter, and an Elvis fan, and Bananas for Bacon was born. We had pre-orders before we even had product on hand! Our last best seller came together in a similar fashion. We kept hearing that duck was a hot trend in treats. While tossing ideas back and forth, we came across an amazing opportunity to upcycle beets. We’ve been running in circles ever since filling orders for Duck Duck Beet.
How do you describe the support and education that you offer retailers that carry your treats?
Our retail partners are really behind our concept and want to help the consumer better understand our mission. Several have been instrumental in helping us design different displays that are simple, highly visible, and articulates our upcycling messaging. Inside the store, we’ve been able to create floor displays, sidecap shippers and shelf talkers that have resulted in noticeable sales lifts. Outside of the store, we promote our message on social media. Besides our regular posts, when we enter a new market or location, we also geotarget consumers that identify with the retailer’s brand. This has proven to be a cost-effective way to help not only promote our brand to these customers, but also help the retailer highlight the uniqueness of their assortment in the category.