Treats filled with bugs are disrupting pet food

Hope Pet Food is emphasizing its evidence-based, green-friendly approach in using insects as protein.

Hope-pet-food

Entomophagy, or the practise of eating insects, hasn’t caught on among humans just yet, despite claims that it would be the next big trend in food. But Hope Pet Food is hoping it will for our dogs. 

The Mississauga-based brand, founded by Dr. Sofia Bonilla and Kasey Dunn, launched its first insect-based product in October – Berry Buglicious dog treats.

These are oven-baked biscuits are made with black soldier fly, barley flour, oats, pumpkin, kelp, cranberries, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup.

According to Bonilla, the main challenge in the pet food space is to overcome the idea that meat should be the first ingredient in premium products, despite its presence being costly with respect to land and water use and greenhouse gases.

On pack Hope uses “Eco-deliciousness Powered by Science” positioning to communicate its expertise and that sustainability is at the forefront of its products, supported by a fully recyclable bag, to curb shipping emissions.

When it comes to other design considerations, Bonilla says it stands out because urban pet parenthood is not usually portrayed in pet foods and it’s incorporating landmarks like the CN Tower into its packaging.

As a new company launching in COVID, and breaking barriers in what is a traditional space, it has been a steep learning curve, Bonilla admits.

“It has been incredible timing. There has been a buzz (no pun intended) about insect protein in pet food in the past year and it has validated our efforts,” Bonilla says.

Hope-instagram

Montréal-based Wilder Harrier, is another player that offers insect-based treats with cricket powder as an ingredient, which it says contains two times more protein than beef. In 2021, Mars Petcare introduced dry cat food Lovebug to market in the UK, created from black soldier fly larvae insect meal, while Nestlé has introduced a Purina fly larvae pet food to its Swiss market.

According to Bonilla, however, the alternative protein space is so new, that it doesn’t see other players as competitors. Besides, she notes, consumers will be better able to connect with a mission driven and science-based company over a large CPG that could be perceived as more profit-driven.

Currently Hope has dog biscuits available and is working on its complete and balanced insect-based dog food, which will be available in Q2 of 2022.

“We have soft treats for dogs and products for cats in the pipeline,” Bonilla says, but admits that a cat palette is more difficult to please, and the nutrients felines require – arginine, taurine and arachidonic acid – are scarce in many ingredients.

“We know cat food is more difficult but we are up for the challenge of finding those nutrients in sustainable, novel ingredients from insects, algae and yeast,” Bonilla says. “In fact, we are doing research with a unique algae ingredient that can provide some of those nutrients.”

The company expects to have cat treats on the market by the end of 2022 and food in 2023.

Hope is currently working on its direct-to-consumer, e-commerce and independent pet retailer market and its plan is to meet customers wherever they shop but it also sees an opportunity  in the veterinarian channel which it says is only served by big players.

Berry Buglicious is available at select waste-free stores in the GTA and is working with e-commerce platforms such as Canadian Pet Connection. The company also recently set up an Ontario-wide distribution agreement to be available more widely.