The switch to plant-based technologies is accelerating globally, as more and more of us reduce our meat intake for taste, health and environmental reasons. But the same can’t be said when it comes to our pets, who today account for around a quarter of all meat consumption worldwide. For over a century, brands have told us that feeding meat to our pets is the way to keep them healthy and happy. Because we care so much about them, we lovingly oblige. A love that is increasingly misplaced. HOWND is a unique venture that’s gained traction with new, meat-free formulas. And going up against years of historic brand investment is one reason why building fresh consumer relationships using creative capital is so vital to HOWND’s future success. Here’s a look at why.
HOWND was founded to “serve our best friends better”
HOWND’s driving motivation is to create the first mainstream cruelty-free and planet kind brand for dogs. Having built a thriving early-stage community initially around cruelty-free pet-care products, HOWND is now scaling to meet the food challenges of our time with a focus on plant-based innovation: complete foods that have all the protein, nutrients, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins a dog needs but are entirely meat-free. Dogs also benefit from a plant-based diet’s health benefits, including improvements to immunity, digestion, and allergies. But the pressing concern is meat production itself and the impact the pet food industry has on the planet. And to solve that, we’re going to have to think about what it means to be a responsible pet owner too.
Moo’s Law: change happens slowly, then all at once
Over the next thirty years, we’ll need to feed an estimated ten billion humans and between two and three billion pets. The scale at which meat farming is taking place and the pressure to reduce carbon emissions have reached a breaking point. All told, it’s likely meat production causes more climate change than all the planes, lorries, cars and other forms of transport combined. Cruelty to animals, damage to land, water use, poor nutrition and cleaner manufacturing are all burning issues in need of addressing. Indeed, the transmission of novel diseases resulting from unsafe farming is our next global pandemic in waiting. It’s no surprise plant-based production technologies have become so investible with the pet food industry in its sights.
Evidence of public figures as advocates of vegetarianism goes back to 580 BC, yet the topic remains more urgent and prescient than ever today. A new book Moo’s Law, by Jim Mellon credits HOWND as a change agent and outlines how investors should be thinking about the Agrarian revolution. Borrowing from the concept of Moore’s Law, the book likens plant-based technologies to the microchip, rising in scale whilst shrinking in cost, changing the world at an ever-accelerating rate. Whilst we’re a long way from the changes we need to see, we’re fast turning in this direction.
Busting the myth: dogs are not carnivores
It’s generally accepted that dogs will eat anything, which isn’t to negate that dogs have particular dietary needs depending on their breed. Whilst cats are carnivores and dependent on technologies that sufficiently recreate meat, dogs are not. Like humans, dogs are born omnivores. Despite the myth of dogs as meat-eaters, they can get all the nutrients they need from plant-based substitutes, leading to a much healthier diet.
Whilst we are all eating less meat, we are taking on more (meat-eating) pets
The number of vegans in the UK skyrocketed in 2020, increasing by 40% to 1.5 million. Even in fast food, you’ll find advertising encouraging the uptake of meat-free and vegan options, such as the Impossible Burger.
Gen Z and millennials make up the largest segment of flexitarians in the UK (35% of Gen Z claim they want to be meat free). These same generations are driving new pet ownership - 59% of all new pet owners are under 35. Their increase in spending on pets had already risen sharply, dubbed the ‘pawsecco’ phenomenon. In the US, cats and dogs exceed the number of children under eighteen by almost two to one.
Now consider that in 2020, dog ownership increased by a startling 30% - another 3 million dogs entered our lives in the UK through the pandemic. The dog food market alone was already worth £3bn in 2018. Yet, only 1.6% of dogs are currently meat-free.
If young people are increasingly vegan, why aren’t their pets?
The acute problem we face is not just that pets consume a lot of meat; it’s the role that pets play in our lives. When it comes to our pets, we are over-considerate, treating them as cherished family members. Dogs, in particular, are a human’s best friend: dogs were the first domesticated animal, stepping forward to socialise alongside humans where other animals remained both predator and prey. The irony of this is that we end up being overly cruel to some animals through meat manufacture by being excessively kind to our pets.
Marketing is partly to blame. For years brands have told pet owners that the right thing is to give them prime cuts of meat (even though they often contain toxins and hormones from intensive farming that many dogs are allergic to). Many even advocate that raw meat is the best thing you can feed a dog. Every pet owner wants to give theirs the very best, and new brand entrants have focussed on country kitchens and home-cooked stews. Some brands even offer food that’s “as good as it looks”: in reality, dogs and cats have no interest in how the food looks at all.
New technologies can help
HOWND’s formulations are 100% vegan plant-powered superfoods, using protein-rich sources such as hemp and pumpkin, quinoa, pea concentrate, brewer’s yeast, and moringa. HOWND’s products cover a range of nutritional, health and food benefits but, first and foremost, are devoured by dogs as much as the leading foods available. HOWND’s consumer taste tests and dog owner feedback are central to all product development.
HOWND is leading the charge as we enter the age of “Moo’s Law”, where plant-based technology is faster, better and lower cost. The results are more cleanly, safely manufactured foods that are better for the planet and better for canine friends that deserve the best we can give them.
Creative capital helps to define a relationship, not just build a product
And Rising’s investment is critical from a brand standpoint, and there is a paradox to tackle. When asked, 99% agree that the planet is under threat, but only 1% believe it will affect them personally. The same goes for pet food - whilst we may decide that plant-based alternatives are a better idea for the planet, we’ll only adopt them if we believe they are tastier and more loved by our pets first and foremost. That means creating a brand that’s trusted and scaled differently - the opportunity for a new generation and community of pet owners to emerge.
We’re delighted to welcome HOWND to the And Rising family as we work across their portfolio towards a more clean and conscious pet-owning world.