Exclusive: This Pet Food Startup Just Landed a Key Exec From Blue Apron
Each day there seems to be a new type of food delivery service available at the tap of a smartphone screen, whether it be fast food via Seamless and Square’s Caviar, or learning to cook out-of-a-box like Plated and Purple Carrot.
But not all of these services are meant to satisfy the taste buds and meal times for just humans. There is a growing number of gourmet and on-demand food delivery services for our four-legged friends—and one of them is bringing in some brainpower from a meal delivery brand already popular nationwide.
Ollie, a New York-based startup dedicated to making and delivering healthier dog food, has hired Matthew Cantatore, a former Blue Apron executive, as its new vice president of operations. Cantatore served in a similar role as director of operations at Blue Apron for just over two years.
“Ollie is disrupting the pet food market similarly to how Blue Apron disrupted the dinner table,” Cantatore tells Fortune exclusively, explaining how his experience in scaling business volume amid growing internal operations is “best learned in practice rather than in textbooks.”
“My experience at BA translates pretty directly in the sense that we’re dealing with a human grade food product,” Cantatore says. “Ollie faces the same operational complexity as BA in solving the logistics question around fresh perishable goods and building a robust supply chain.”
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Ollie already set tongues and tails wagging after raising $4.4 million last October. Since launching in 2016, the company says it is on track to deliver 1 million meals within its first full year of business.
Similar to some other newer e-commerce brands, Ollie’s strategy is a cocktail of consumer data, a proprietary algorithm, and feedback from canine nutritionists to develop its cooking methods. Pet owners contribute to that data pool by filling out profiles to determine their pups’ exact portion sizes and nutritional needs based on body size, age, breed, body composition, activity level, and allergies.
Those dog-minded recipes include “chicken goodness” (made from chicken, carrots, green peas, chicken livers and gizzards, chia seeds, long grain rice, spinach, potatoes, eggs, blueberries, and sunflower oil, among other ingredients), and “hearty beef eats” (beef hearts, liver, and kidneys, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, carrots, spinach, chia seeds, sunflower oil, and blueberries, and more).
“As the food delivery landscape expands to accommodate a growing sector of health-conscious consumers, we’re finding that the same sentiment is being carried over to the pet health industry,” Cantatore says. “Pet owners who care about their own health, wellness, and nutrition want to translate this sense of well-being and the benefits they get from eating all natural fresh foods over to their pets’ lives.”
Up until recently, meals were only made at a USDA-regulated kitchen in Pennsylvania. They can be shipped throughout the continental United States. (Thus, no delivery to Hawaii and Alaska just yet.) When delivered, meals arrive cold or frozen in insulated, recyclable containers. Food packed in sealed trays are promised to stay fresh if unopened for up to 21 days (but only up to five days after opening).
Shipping is free, and subscription rates vary based on a dog’s size down to the exact number of calories a pup needs to consume daily. A small dog starts at $3 per day.
Ollie is already getting bigger as it just opened a second facility in Reno, Nev., which will complement the Pennsylvania site and serve as the company’s fulfillment hub for the West Coast for the foreseeable future. Cantatore said Ollie is also looking into expanding its East Coast footprint (or pawprint) to better meet demand in the coming months and years.
“These pet owners see their pets as members of the family,” Cantatore says. “As such, they care just as much about what they feed their pets as they do about what they feed themselves.”