“[With] Marley Spoon’s [focus on] convenience, personalisation, reducing food waste, local ingredients where possible, [Bezzie is] really continuing a lot of that,” Rohan Nayee, general manager for Bezzie, told Inside Retail.
“Dogs are [considered] one of the family. If you look at the box they receive, the packaging, and the individual ingredients, it’s very much what a human would expect to receive on their doorstep.”
It’s a project that Marley Spoon has been working on behind the scenes for over 12 months as part of the company’s global ambition to reach €5 billion in revenue by 2030, and was quietly introduced to consumers through a soft launch around six months ago.
Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world, with approximately 61 per cent of households owning a pet, according to a 2019 report by Animal Medicines Australia, making the pet industry a booming market locally. And dogs are the most common pet with 40 per cent of households counting them as family members.
Marley Spoon’s largely Millennial customer base lends itself well to a pet food subscription service. According to a Statista survey conducted in 2020/21, Millennials account for the largest share of pet owners in the US at 32 per cent. And as Marley Spoon customers, they are already onboard with the e-commerce subscription model, Nayee explained. But prior to launching the service, the business conducted some customer research to test the waters.
“We knew from speaking to our customers that 30-40 per cent would be interested in pet nutrition service from Marley Spoon because there’s existing trust in the business. The opportunity was there,” Nayee said.
Personalisation for pooches
Bezzie’s meal plans for dogs are customised according to the animal’s age, weight and activity levels. Customers fill out a form online to find the right plan and choose from raw meat and veggie options or dry food, all of which is made with local ingredients sourced from Australian farms.
Frozen raw food does present additional challenges when it comes to delivery, but the brand aims to combat this by surrounding ice packs and packing locally to minimise journey time.
“It’s absolutely crucial to get that right. The premise of the brand is humanisation and personalisation, elevating what your dog is eating to a more human lifestyle. If we deliver a partially thawed product, we’re not delivering on that promise,” Nayee said.
Premium dog food has been in high demand in recent years, with innovative players disrupting the largely unregulated industry, which big brands dominated for decades.
While Bezzie is not produced in-house, it worked with nutritionists and consultants, including Bondi Vet owner Dr Kate Adams who has joined as a brand ambassador, to get the formula right.
“We sought nutritionists’ advice on the best product and the best producers to work with,” Nayee said.
“We knew we wanted to step away from the non-descript canned food with non-identifiable ingredients. We wanted a much more natural way, working with Australian producers.”
To help convert dogs and their owners to the new product, Bezzie has a transition guide with information on how much to feed and over what time period to slowly integrate the new product without upsetting the animal’s digestive system.
The service currently delivers to New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Victoria with plans to launch in other states throughout 2022. There are also plans to expand the range to serve puppies.
Creating flexibility within the subscription model
Nayee says the challenge for Bezzie will be converting pet owners that have not previously bought into the subscription model.
“There’s this perceived inflexibility of joining a subscription service – although it’s very easy to cancel and pause – once you’re in, you are receiving that box on a monthly basis and I think that behaviour for pet owners can be quite new,” he explained.
“Some people love it; for others, knowing that money will be coming out of the bank account every month is something that takes a bit of getting used to.”
In order to combat this, Nayee says flexibility will be key in the success of the business, both in terms of the product options available and frequency of delivery.
“We’re seeing [demand for flexibility] in human meal kits as well. Do they want to receive it every two weeks rather than every four weeks? Maybe they want to receive it every two months. We’ll listen to the consumer base on that,” he said.
To Europe and beyond
Bezzie also launched in the US earlier this year with a similar proposition, and Nayee is hopeful that if the business proves to be a success in these markets, it will later expand to European markets, where the company’s meal kit brands Marley Spoon and Dinnerly are already in operation.
“Potentially Europe would be next, but I don’t think there’ll be a huge rush for that,” he said.
“With a smart business like Marley Spoon, if we’re taking money from the meal kit business [to invest in another vertical], then we need to be able to prove success and prove that there is profitability there.”
And while the range is starting with dog food products, Nayee has greater plans for Bezzie to act as a “holistic pet care solution”, not only for dogs but for cats and other household pets in future.
“We’re very keen to offer the best in nutrition, across a meal plan, across treats, vitamins, probiotics etc, and then really blow that out into lifestyle – sustainable accessories, bowls, poop bags etc. There’s a lot that we would look to potentially expand into,” he said.
“We need to focus on dogs to get that right first. I think if we go too broad too soon, it would be a mistake because I don’t think that one size fits all. But once we have a bit of momentum in the canine world, cats would be the next demographic concept that makes sense to us from a scale point of view.”
Marley Spoon business grows
The latest announcement from Marley Spoon follows the company’s recent launch into Western Australia. The Marley Spoon brand began delivering to Perth customers last week, almost a year after Dinnerly was introduced to the state, making them the only two meal kit brands delivering to every state and territory in the country.
Perth has become the fastest growing market for Dinnerly with nearly 20 per cent of boxes produced nationally delivered to WA customers.
“Since we launched in Perth last year we’ve hired nearly 50 new permanent and part-time staff and will need another 50 within the next 12 months to meet demand across both Marley Spoon and Dinnerly,” Marley Spoon chief executive Rolf Weber said in a statement.
And despite the brand’s five-year partnership with Woolworths taking a hit when the supermarket giant sold its stake for $54 million in September, there was also good news on that front with Marley Spoon and Dinnerly welcomed as partners of Woolworths’ Everyday Rewards loyalty program this week.
From October 25, all Australian customers of Marley Spoon and Dinnerly can earn 1 point per $1 spent on each order.
“By complementing customer grocery needs with our meal kit proposition, we’ve been able to reach a whole new base of customers who are pairing their meal kit purchases with their regular supermarket visit. It’s a win-win for both brands and our mutual customers,” Marley Spoon Australia CMO, Kate Whitney, said in a statement.
“There are very few rewards for customers of subscription services, whether it be streaming services, wine subscriptions or meal kits. Customers aren’t always provided with the incentives to consistently reward brands with their loyalty.”
Woolworths’ Everyday Rewards program is the largest loyalty program in Australia with 13.1 million members across the country.