Pet ownership has steadily increased over the years, with many people having brought pets into their families over the past three years. This, in turn, has boosted the pet industry itself, with the market value growing from $90 billion in 2018 to over $120 billion in 2021.
Of this amount, $50 billion was spent in the United States on food and treats. This opened space for startups to offer subscription box amenities similar to what people had for food and other products, with companies like Chewy and Barkbox being among the most prominent.
Many are aimed directly at consumers, including animal care startup Bundle x Joy, but founder and CEO Jessica Berger told TechCrunch she quickly realized that “a real DTC game isn’t was not necessarily the way the consumer wants to engage”.
“They’re excited to be back in stores,” Berger said. “They are delighted to touch, smell and discover new products. Our brand is very disruptive on the shelf, so we think retail is important in our discovery. DTC is going to be a much smaller portion than we expected as we use retail as the start of a funnel.
Berger launched Bundle x Joy in 2022 after spending the past 15 years in the pet industry, including at PetSmart and Nestlé, where she ran Castor & Pollux’s line of organic dog and cat food.
The company provides premium superfoods and supplement and treat bundles for dogs at a subscription rate of $2 per day. It also has a 3% rebate to help fund women in entrepreneurship and local communities.
A year later, Bundle x Joy is in more than 450 outlets across Sprouts, Whole Foods and select specialty stores, and will double that footprint this summer, including another major national retailer yet to be announced. . It is also available direct-to-consumer through its website and Amazon.com.
The company also has new seed funding of $1 million, which closed this week. Leap Venture Studio led the round and was joined by a group that included Mars Petcare Companion Fund, R/GA Ventures, Michelson Found Animals Foundation and Cloyes Ventures.
“I’m a first-generation Latina, and we’re really trying to bring more diversity into this space,” Berger said. “A lot of founders struggle to get into retailers, but we tell them that we’re bringing a lot of innovation and a new customer into your pet set. We’ll also be delivering a lot of value outside of the store.
For example, the company took to TikTok with a series of interviews with Sprouts customers. “We’re aligning with them and using our customer base and our digital to drive, and that’s been very successful,” Berger added.
From a nutritional perspective, Bundle x Joy organizes its boxes from 15 products and an exclusive “Pup Quiz” allowing customers to rate the products to offer and the personality of their dog. In fact, the company assigns fun personalities to each pet, including “Golden”, “Vibrant” and “Brave”.
Additionally, the quiz allows the company to produce the right package for the animal, including formulation, size and frequency of feeds and supplements, based on the animal’s specific needs.
“If your pet is ‘Golden’, throughout your experience on the website it will say #goldenaf, so it’s just a more fun way to focus less on the drudgery of pet food and more about the joy that comes with engaging with our pets. I really thought that was missing,” Berger told TechCrunch.
Meanwhile, Berger began lifting the seed cycle in October 2021 and just closed it this week — yes, a long time ago, she noted. Berger explained that Bundle x Joy was a finalist to enter a VC studio, so she knew that if she had an open round during that time, investors would enter on Berger’s terms.
Well, she didn’t get into that particular cohort, but it did allow some flexibility to go out and fundraise as needed versus the full million at one time. Berger remembers talking to hundreds of investors over that year and a half, and although many liked what she was doing, many told her to call them when she was selling $1 million a month.
Instead, Berger chose the path of friends and family with his father as his first investor.
“I think he knew if he invested first, it would really make me fight to make it work,” she said. “I could see that investors weren’t necessarily willing to bet on me so soon, but fast forward five months, and they come to me. We’ve also been very lucky: I have no debt, which was very important to me.
In addition to expanding into new stores, Bundle x Joy intends to use proceeds from the increase to expand its team: Berger said the company has hired a full-time marketing manager, which is a new priority for society. It will also increase its inventory and product development.