[Indie Interview] Vet Chef helps pet parents to cook healthy fresh meals, personalised for your dog.
We talk exclusively to vet and nutrition expert Dr Joe Inglis, the founder and head vet at VetChef.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
As well as being a vet, I’ve been working in the pet food business for around 15 years. In 2005, I launched the dog food range Joe & Jack’s, which was sold in the UK by Tesco from 2008, and in 2010 launched a pet food brand, Vet’s Kitchen. Most notably I started tails.com back in 2012 which ended up being a successful subscription dog food business.
Where did the concept of VetChef come from?
After tails.com, I started thinking about what the next opportunity could be, and I realised that there was an unserved market for people that wanted to cook for their pets at home but didn’t have any tools or services to help them. Around two thirds of pet owners worldwide follow fresh-feeding principles – they cook for their pets occasionally or regularly – and no brand is really attending to their needs. Creating VetChef was an opportunity to help these pet parents safely and appropriately and build an exciting business at the same time.
How does VetChef work?
VetChef helps pet parents feed their dogs healthy fresh food with the My VetChef recipe app and expert nutritional advice. VetChef uses an AI-powered web platform to create bespoke recipes based on each dog’s specific individual nutritional needs and preferences. By entering a few details about their dog, owners receive a range of recommended recipes that are designed to be easy and quick to cook at home as well as being completely balanced when fed with VetChef nutritional supplements.
We are also developing a product called Buddy which is the world’s first fresh pet food maker appliance, which is designed to make home cooking super-easy by doing all the hard work such as chopping, mixing and cooking.
Who is your typical customer?
Increasingly pet parents see processed foods in the same way as feeding our children, or the rest of the family, in that they are convenient in small doses but not ideal for every meal. We’re relevant to almost all pet parents, from those who want to feed all home cooked food or to those who are looking to just add an occasional fresh treat to their dog’s diet.. We play a role in helping them to make right choices about what type of food to feed and at the same time, manage their pet’s nutrition.
What is the biggest focus right now?
We’re still a young business – a lockdown business – having started in March 2020. Last year was all about building out the first iteration of the business. This year we have been focused on launching our products and services. We’ve been developing recipes and services for pets with medical health issues such as kidney disease, pancreatitis or skin problems. For those pets that won’t eat a prescription diet, vets don’t really have any options so we’re developing tools for vets to recommend to their customers who are looking for a nutritional approach to medical problems.
How are you growing your customer base?
We have around 6,000 customers using the app. Initially we grew through social channels, but customers are now approaching us directly or are being referred through our vet channels – the organic growth has been encouraging. We have also started to collaborate with retailers directly, and our recipes work as a value-add to these retailers who have established ecommerce channels.
How are you building out internationally?
Our customers can use the app to access recipes anywhere in the world. To offer the full suite of products, we really do need to have a distribution channel on the ground. As we expand into Australia and the USA over the next year, our next challenge is getting physical products into those geographies.
What is on the horizon for you as a company?
We’re focussed on dogs right now, but cats are on our roadmap. There are different challenges with cats, they are a bit more finickity and the range of foods you can use is less but it’s on our radar.
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