In the post-pandemic pet product boom, a Los Angeles-based startup is looking to set itself apart from the dog-eating dog competition with one word: Science. Front Of The Pack, led by British serial entrepreneur Neil Hutchinson, focuses on research into the commercialization of its nutritional supplements for dogs, which are presented as powdered food toppers designed to improve well-being. healthy dogs and to target chronic disease in others.
“I think the easiest way to show the effectiveness of our products is to invest in science. Initially, that meant investing in the supply chain, taking the best sources of ingredients in the world, ”says Hutchinson, who co-founded the company just a year ago alongside Chris Wilkinson, with whom he had also collaborated on the purchase and merger of an online pet. UK supplies retailer “Now he’s investing in a clinical study at a leading university,” he adds, referring to the company’s plans to sponsor trials of its products at the School of UC Davis Veterinary Medicine.
FOTP, which now generates more than $ 1 million in monthly revenue, on Wednesday announced a $ 10 million Series A to help make those trials possible, bringing its total funding to $ 13.5 million and its valuation to $ 50 million. The cycle is led by London-based Stride VC with input from Heartcore Capital, the Founder Collective and angel investors including Andrew Dundum, founder and CEO of now public digital health and wellness company Hims / Hers, who also supported a pet telemedicine start-up. which launched earlier in July.
Like many online businesses that sell direct to the consumer, FOTP relies on brand loyalty: Wilkinson says “The One,” which is his best-selling, multivitamin-like product, is a good “gateway” for the brand, leading satisfied consumers to purchase monthly subscriptions and add other FOTP products to their cards as well. The brand encourages customer return by offering discounts on such subscriptions – “The One” is available for $ 38 all at once, but $ 34 as a monthly purchase. One jar contains about 60 scoops which, when administered daily, can last up to two months depending on the size of your dog. FOTP hasn’t shared with Forbes what percentage of their revenue comes from subscription purchases, versus one-time purchases.
Hutchinson, who once founded a successful digital marketing agency, and Wilkinson began their joint foray into the pet supplies business in 2017, when they bought internet retailer Paws.com in hopes of making it. transform into Chewy from UK. In 2019, the company merged with other online retailers to create a holding company now called The Paws Group. Both got FOTP from this experience: They wanted to create their own products and, like many entrepreneurs, saw an opportunity to take advantage of consumers’ insatiable desire for online subscription products.
“Nine months of R&D went by and we realized we could make the best pet supplement product the world has ever seen,” Wilkinson said. The duo decided that investing heavily in research to support their ultimate product line would be their differentiator, and designed their website to emphasize this positioning: “Our experts have assembled a catalog of over 400 research publications verifying the health claims of each of our ingredients, ”we read.
The FOTP was launched months before the pandemic spread across the world, leaving consumers much more time to focus on the well-being of their pets and to scour the internet for products to improve. this well-being. Investors got on board: two months after its debut, the brand announced a funding round of $ 3.5 million.
“For us, it was really the macro trend of pet ownership, the emotional bonds people have with their pets and the fact that it redistributes to the well-being of pet owners,” explains Max Niederhofer of Heartcore Capital in London, who has supported FOTP since its inception in early stages, and doubled in this final round. Hutchinson, who Niederhofer describes as “one of the UK’s leading serial founders”, is also essential for investor confidence.
To prove the effectiveness of their products, Hutchinson and Wilkinson refer to customer reviews on their website. “My dog has got his life back,” writes a client of “The One”. “I think I’ve found something that really works,” writes the owner of a 9-year-old Chihuahua, who was suddenly as energetic as a puppy. But veterinary nutritionists, including Angela Rollins of the University of Tennessee, are skeptical of canine supplements given to healthy animals.
“The vast majority of commercial diets available for dogs and cats in the United States will already contain all of the vitamins and nutrients a pet needs,” she says, adding that chronically ill animals should seek advice. their veterinarian, who can recommend dietary changes. if and when they are appropriate.
FOTP hopes to end these concerns through its next trials. “We are very confident,” Hutchinson said of the likelihood that the research will confirm his and Wilkinson’s beliefs that FOTP sells the best supplements on the market and that these supplements are beneficial for dogs on all levels.
FOTP also plans to use its newly acquired capital to create a pet food, which will put the startup in competition with successful online subscription brands like Farmer’s Dog, which in 2019 was valued at 600 million. of dollars.