Herbie Wilde takes the lead with plant-rich superfood for dogs | City & Business | Finance
Many pet owners – and business competitors – can cheer as start-up producer Herbie Wilde leads a new sector with the UK’s first ethically sourced plant-based superfood for dogs.
Founder Ella Daines-Smith chose to ignore the negativity when she was told her product idea was dead and could never compete in a traditional industry dominated by big brands and big buying power.
So after two years of development Herbie, based in Oxfordshire, jumped onto the scene last March selling direct-to-consumer in a UK market with 12 million dogs and a value of £1.59 billion.
The firm has average growth of 15 per cent a month and is forecasting a turnover of £5 million by 2027.
The inspiration for Herbie comes from Bertie, Daines-Smith’s French bulldog who was a hit with the cast when she worked on a series of films.
Bertie, however, was not so famous, due to her poor health she is the local vet’s highest paying client.
When work was put on hold during the lockdown, Ella – with the support of her partner – took the time to investigate further what caused problems such as allergies, intolerance and lower life expectancy.
“I started researching dog food and its standards. The industry seemed to be far behind the human food industry. There was an opportunity to improve the offer outside the European pet food guidelines,” she explains.
With the help of vets, nutritionists and Bertie as master taster the recipes were developed from scratch in the Daines-Smith kitchen, “backed by evidence-based research we removed key allergens such as wheat, dairy and cheaper filling ingredients,” she says.
“Instead of Bertie taking immunosuppressants for the rest of her life, her problems disappeared within weeks.
“It was clear that the best thing for dogs was a flexible diet that was completely meat-free or rich in plants.
“Many dog parents are coming to us and have helped create huge improvements in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflamed skin and affected anal glands.”
Herbie contains 39 traceable natural ingredients selected to nourish every part of an adult dog, from strong bones to a shiny coat. The food comes in recyclable bags with biodegradable taping and prices start from £24.99.
Raising the bar on nutrition, sustainability and provenance, the company is developing an outstanding supply chain helping to create indirect trade for other businesses and over 1,000 workers.
Customers know exactly where ingredients come from and how they are produced.
Herbie’s impressive suppliers include a chia seed farmer in Essex with wildlife trails on their land, a quinoa grower in Suffolk, a seaweed farm with renewable heat dryers in Scotland, and a sweet potato and pumpkin farm in Honduras prioritizing female employees .
The food is tested for digestibility by a laboratory at the University of Bologna in Italy and Herbie’s manufacturing partner is in Ireland, after which the product is returned to the UK for distribution.
New products on the horizon include training chews and treats and then a range of age-specific food such as for puppies.
With a plan to start exporting by 2026, the company is open to new partner collaborations and Daines-Smith is keen to receive approaches from wholesalers, retailers and charities as well as blueberry growers.
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