Omni: plant-based pet food is here
Omni is a plant-based pet food company from the UK, that is developing healthy, sustainable food for dogs. Guy Sandelowsky and Shiv Sivakumar founded the startup and are part of our current cohort. This is their story.
What does your startup do and what is your mission?
Guy: We started Omni, a D2C plant-based pet food company, in order to make and sell nutritionally complete diets using sustainable, alternative protein sources. We aim to solve the disproportionate environmental impact and pet health problems related to factory-farmed, processed meat diets. Our mission is to change the way the world’s pets eat, for good.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Guy: As a practising veterinarian I saw a lot of pet health issues in my clinic, many of which were linked to poor quality, cheap, processed meat diets. At the same time, I was concerned about the rise of human grade meat companies and their massive carbon footprint.
Shiv, my co-founder, had just got his first dog, Leo, an adorable Cavapoo and was concerned about feeding Leo processed meat. Shiv and his family were also cutting down on their meat consumption at this time, due to the devastating impact it has on the environment.
When we met, we realised that we had the same concerns. As a result, we became determined to create dog food that was better for pet health and for the planet. We consulted a leading veterinary nutritionist to find a solution and quickly discovered that dogs don’t need meat. In fact, there is strong evidence that dogs have been thriving on plant-based diets for years. So, we decided to create a company that just focused on developing this and hence, Omni was born.
Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project?
Shiv: Guy is an influential Vet Surgeon, Biomedical Scientist, and dog lover and is well respected by dog owners all over the world. He is responsible for the development of the product formulations and guides the team on animal welfare. Guy also oversees all research and is actively engaged in educating the veterinary community. He is an MBA candidate at Imperial College London.
I, meanwhile, am a former investment banker with extensive mergers and acquisition experience in the fast-moving consumer goods space. I oversee the finance and operations side of the business and have a wealth of experience with consumer facing business development.
What are your favourite parts about building your business?
Shiv: We love that we are building the pet food business of the future, which can provide better health for our pets while also being kinder to our planet. It’s great to work everyday on something you feel passionate about. That is particularly true when your project will have a lasting impact on animal health and the environment.
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced?
Guy: The biggest challenge is market education. Even though a significant percentage of pet owners are interested in alternative proteins, we anticipate some resistance to change from entrenched interests in the raw meat feeding community or among more conventionally-minded pet owners.
What makes your company unique?
Guy: Firstly, we are bringing scientific authority to a space that has previously remained on the fringes because it lacked validation from veterinary professionals.
Secondly, existing plant-based pet food brands aren’t innovators, each offering one formulation that hasn’t changed in sometimes up to decades. We have a focus on R&D.
In the short-term we’re working to bring new alternative protein sources to pet food that have never been used before. Our vision for the long term includes developing our own IP in the field of cellular agriculture for pet food.
Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator?
Shiv: As a business whose mission aligns exactly with that of the ProVeg incubator, we’re excited by the opportunity it presents to immerse ourselves in the alternative protein entrepreneurial space, as well as to learn from the expertise of mentors and industry experts.
We founded Omni during lockdown. Therefore, we have missed networking and brainstorming with other people who share our values and ambitions. The ProVeg incubator gives us an excellent chance of making up for lost time in that regard!
In your opinion, what does it takes for a startup to be successful?
Guy: A great idea backed by passionate founders who know their customers well and are persistent in the face of adversity.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?
Shiv: We’d like to launch the complete range of plant-based dog food products including dry food, wet food, treats, and supplements. We are initially launching our business online but we would also like to be in retail channels around Europe.
Ultimately, we would like to change peoples minds about the way they feed their pets. We are working towards making the pet food sector healthier and more sustainable.