Why it matters:

  • Consumers are seeking healthier products for their pets; but marketing through multiple media, as well as distribution in new retail channels, will be key to driving awareness and growth, said Renaldo Webb, founder of human-grade pet food startup PetPlate.
  • The booming plant-based eating movement is closely connected to sustainability, creating new product opportunities for plant-based grocery retailer Vejii.
  • Consumers want the convenience of instant delivery, but they also expect a high level of quality in the service they receive — so enhancing the customer experience will be key to boosting brand loyalty, said James Walker, CEO of Buyk.

Three startups in the booming pet product, plant-based food and instant delivery markets said expanding on these fast-growing niches offers big business opportunities for the year ahead.

PetPlate, a maker of human-grade pet food, is boosting brand awareness among consumers who have historically purchased traditional pet food; Vejii, a multi-platform seller of plant-based foods, is tapping sustainable cosmetics and personal care for growth, while expanding its reach within its core grocery business; and 15-minute delivery startup Buyk is eyeing a bigger share of the “instant needs” segment of delivery (which drove $20 billion in U.S. retail sales last year, according to Coresight Research) by upping its game to offer consumers a best-in-class experience.

The leaders of these disruptors unpacked their growth opportunities and plans for execution here:

 Renaldo Webb, founder of PetPlate, holding a dog.
Renaldo Webb, founder of PetPlate. — PetPlate

‘We believe improving our brand awareness can more than double our size in 2022’

Renaldo Webb, founder of PetPlate

Our biggest growth opportunity in 2022 is increasing awareness for PetPlate, as well as the benefits of switching from kibble to human-grade dog food. When I launched PetPlate in 2016, many thought human-grade dog food would be an extremely small and niche market. Since then, there has been rapid growth in the category among pet parents due to the benefits of products like PetPlate, which include better digestion, shinier and softer coats, and healthier weights. This excitement has translated into rapid growth and strong business fundamentals — for example, retention and acquisition costs. However, this is still a relatively new industry, and only a small percentage of the 90 million pet parents in the United States know of human-grade pet food, and fewer know of PetPlate. Increasing this awareness is a massive opportunity for the business, and one of our core business objectives in 2022.

We believe improving our brand awareness can more than double our size in 2022. To execute on this, we’ve started by ensuring our entire team is aligned on the goal of increasing awareness and rallying their 2022 department objectives around this common goal. As a first step, we’ll increase our marketing spend to ensure we’re getting out to more customers. We’ll do this across a number of channels such as paid social, direct mail and connected TV. We’ll also work on our brand messaging to better communicate the unique benefits of PetPlate, and why consumers should consider switching.

We believe improving our brand awareness can more than double our size in 2022.

Renaldo Webb, founder of PetPlate

Once we’ve engaged customers, we’ll make sure we’re easy to find and purchase. We introduced brick-and-mortar retail as a channel in 2021, so now customers can buy and trial PetPlate from their local neighborhood pet store as well as on our easy-to-use website. Finally, we’ll ensure a seamless experience and quality products, giving our customers the confidence to recommend to their friends and further spread the word about the brand.

[Read: Backed By General Mills, PetPlate Delivers Mindful Eating for Dogs]

 Headshot of Kory Zelickson, CEO and co-founder of Vejii.
Kory Zelickson, co-founder and CEO of Vejii. — Vejii

Expanding from sustainable food to beauty and fashion

Kory Zelickson, CEO and co-founder of Vejii

[As the pandemic has changed how people buy food], we anticipate that online shopping for groceries will continue to gain popularity. Our marketplaces, ShopVejii.com and VeganEssentials.com, are online marketplaces that offer plant-based and sustainable food and products.

There is also increasing interest in sustainability. This aligns with our plans to distribute sustainable-living products in 2022, including cosmetics, personal care and fashion through ShopVejii.com.

Plant-based eating is another way that consumers are living a more sustainable lifestyle, and our Vedgeco.com platform provides grocery and foodservice channels with wholesale vegan products.

We have recently added three new distribution facilities and leveraged a regionalized distribution strategy to deliver frozen, refrigerated or shelf-stable products to customers across the U.S. We leverage multi-point distribution and redundant inventory to reinforce against potential supply chain disruption.

Via our online platforms, we can collect a significant amount of data on consumer buying patterns and detect trends early that can help us anticipate new market trends and ensure that our product mix and warehouses are curated to best serve those trends.

To support the growing number of plant-based and sustainable products on the market, we have built Vejii to operate as a multi-vendor marketplace that can accommodate thousands of products and vendors. We offer market insights to help brands navigate marketing and product development, while also managing their logistics and distribution.

[Read: How 3 Hot Startups Are Monetizing the Booming Food Waste Business]

 Headshot of James Walker, CEO of Buyk
James Walker, CEO of Buyk. — Buyk

Aiming for ultra-fast delivery ‘that is much more consumer friendly and much more valuable for America’

James Walker, CEO of Buyk

Before COVID, convenience was already becoming more and more important to Americans, whether they were shopping at grocery stores, or restaurants, or wherever. We started to see convenience becoming more important than quality. During the pandemic, consumers were not that concerned if the quality of the delivery wasn’t perfect — even if some items were missing, or it took too long.

I think Buyk is well-positioned for the next evolution in convenience. We can focus on quality and providing a great shopping experience with a virtual storefront where we control the inventory, unlike other delivery services that shop in stores.

There is also an opportunity to increase the pace of delivery — we can deliver in 15 minutes or less. It becomes like turning a faucet on; it becomes part of the consumer’s life. What ultrafast does is make it an unplanned shopping experience — I can just have a craving for something [that’s instantly satisfied].

The big idea for Buyk is to address that need that Americans have for convenience, and that need to have more time in their lives. We are going to do it in a way that is much more consumer friendly and much more valuable for America.

In order to make that customer experience a reality, it does require a lot of work. It requires a best-in-class assortment — an assortment that majors in the majors. You are going to be able to get your Diet Coke and your Heinz Ketchup, but there will also be assortment based on hyper-locality, like Pat LaFrieda meats in New York.

And now we also have private label, so we are providing a best-in-class experience no matter what products people order.

The pillars to making this work are having a great team, having great leadership, having great strategy, and probably most important, those individuals who interact face to face with customers — our couriers — need to be the best that are available in the United States. That means we need to be a best-in-class employer. We have to have policies, procedures and a leadership style that is focused on making the courier job a fantastic job — happy couriers yield happy customer experiences.

We also want to grow this brand with the requisite rigor so that we are making the right decisions on markets. We are looking at growing the brand very rapidly, but we are doing so methodically. Markets on the immediate horizon are Miami, Boston and Los Angeles, but we need to be ready to ensure the customer experience is the best it can be, and importantly that we have the people in place who can deliver that experience.

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Published February 28, 2022