Colorado’s Bond Pet Foods has had a busy few years since we last spoke back in 2018. In September last year, the fermented pet food startup headed by Rich Kelleman completed a Series A round totaling $17.5M with notable investors including pop star Sia, at the same time announcing it had broken ground on a new 15,000 sq. ft. production facility in Boulder.
With the catchy tagline, “We brew meat”, Bond is on a mission to reimagine meat for pet nutrition so people, pets, farm animals, and the planet all win. After five eventful years, it was certainly time to hear again from Rich Kelleman to learn more about Bond’s developments and journey so far.
In its current state, is the pet food industry sustainable? If not, why?
In some ways, sustainability has always been integral to the pet food industry’s proposition- for example, the use of animal by-products that would otherwise be discarded but have nutritional value for dogs and cats.
“If America’s dogs and cats were their own country, their consumption of meat products alone would rank fifth in the world”
That said, the production of both meat and meat byproducts still has a significant impact on the environment, in part due to the massive scale of our pets’ consumption. If America’s dogs and cats were their own country, their consumption of meat products alone would rank fifth in the world, and it’s estimated that between 20-30% of the negative environmental impacts of meat production (GHG emissions, land, water) can be attributed to their daily consumption.
Wouldn’t it be an incredible innovation and advancement for the pet food industry, if we could provide a new, foundational protein option for pet food recipes that was complete and culturally satisfying? This is what we’re solving for with our work at Bond.
Are plant-based foods for dogs and cats the solution?
Certainly, plant-based foods can be part of the solution, and more data points to its potential, particularly related to dog health. However, meat will continue to reign for most pet parents, and for many a pre-requisite to what they feed their dogs and cats.
Recognizing this reality Bond is reimagining how meat is sourced and made, employing established food production technologies coupled with a dash of creativity.
What are you developing at Bond- and why do you believe it can help usher in a more sustainable pet food future?
Bond is the first company focused on creating meat proteins for the pet food industry through a process called precision fermentation. Your readers are probably familiar with traditional fermentation, an ancient process that produces some of our favorite foods and beverages like wine, cheese, and beer.
Precision fermentation is an evolution of this technology. It has been used for nearly half a century to make everything from enzymes (rennet) for cheese manufacturing to good bacteria for probiotics, vitamin B12, and lactic acid – we’re just reassembling the process to produce meat proteins that can be foundational for pet health.
The method has similarities to craft brewing, save the starter kit. For example, with chicken, we combine a harmless sample of a hen’s DNA (the building blocks of any plant or animal source) with brewer’s yeast, put it into a fermentation tank, add natural vitamins and minerals, and within 48-78 hours we’ve produced a batch of delicious, nutritious chicken protein that, when dried and ground, can serve as the foundation of any pet food recipe.
What animal proteins are you starting with, and why?
Chicken is the most consumed meat protein in the world for people and pets, so this is the first ingredient in our commercial roadmap. Nevertheless, our process can be employed to make
virtually any type of animal protein- and we have commitments from pet food manufacturers to make proteins bespoke to their needs – so the innovation pipeline will keep us busy for the foreseeable future.
Will Bond’s ingredients be comparable (nutrition, cost) with conventional meat alternatives?
We have a line of sight, with process optimization and at scale, where our meat proteins will be cost-competitive with the most commonly used conventional meat ingredients on the marketplace today.
Historically pet food manufacturers have been focused on meat-centric diets as a marker of quality and better nutrition. Do you think they’re ready to embrace alt-proteins such as Bond’s?
If anything, we’re delighted by the level of interest from pet manufacturers who have recognized the value of Bond’s ingredients, their potential to diversify their protein supply chains, and help them meet ambitious sustainability goals.
The proteins we produce can be easily added to virtually any pet food recipe while also fulfilling the nutritional contribution that pet owners expect from super-premium pet food brands.
What must be done to bring pet parents along on the journey with you to make them comfortable with this new way to create meat?
The Hartman Group, an insight research firm that tracks food industry trends, recently released a report on Precision Fermentation showing that 40% of the U.S. adult population (approximately 90 million people) is ready to try new and novel products made through the technology. We believe this is due to the comfort level and familiarity people have with traditional fermentation and how it’s employed to make foods they consume every day.
“…we know we’ll need to excite and educate the public around a new craft of meat”
Regardless, we know we’ll need to excite and educate the public around a new craft of meat, which has deeply entrenched conventional definitions and traditions, and we’ll be rolling out this work in the months ahead.
When will your ingredients arrive on the market?
Our first two animal proteins are currently working through FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine regulatory process, for use and sale in the US. We’re confident we will demonstrate high-performance and secure clearance for commercialization once this exercise is complete.
What does the future of the pet food look industry look like to you?
We believe the pet food industry is on the cusp of a new renaissance, with a multitude of more sustainable, climate-friendly proteins and ingredients emerging to enhance the health and wellness of our pets.
We’re aiming to be a significant and influential part of this movement to usher in a better, more responsible pet food future.