HONG KONG — Buddy Bites, a dog food startup originating in Hong Kong, has announced a new product launch in conjunction with its expansion into the Singapore market this month. As the company expands its market availability, it won’t be straying from its founding mission — to donate 1 kilogram of dog food to animal shelters across Asia for every 2 kilograms of dog food sold.

The concept behind this philanthropic pet food startup began in early 2020 when Co-Founders Chris Lee and Ryan Black realized there was a gap in the market for subscription-based direct-to-consumer (DTC) pet food brands in Hong Kong and the larger Asian market. Buddy Bites officially launched in September 2020.

“There was a real need for a good quality subscription dog food brand in Asia, but there was already desire to support shelters (rightly so!),” Black said. “We felt we had the opportunity to create a DTC model to offer customers a route to both.”

So far, the company has donated more than 500,000 meals to various shelters across Asia. Buddy Bites’ current shelter partners include Hong Kong Dog Rescue, Catherine’s Puppies, Paws Guardian Rescue Shelter, Love Fluffy Home, Sai King Stray Friends, and Tails Lantau.

Despite all the hardships surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a ripe opportunity for Buddy Bites to introduce its charitable, subscription-based diets in a market where demand was evident, Black told Pet Food Processing. Over the last 12 months, Buddy Bites has seen 300% revenue growth supported by its core kibble formulas — Puppy, Duck and Lamb.

“The game plan is to raise more capital and begin to expand in Asia,” Black said. “…Once we have proof of concept in Singapore, then we’ll try to expand further in Asia, because we know there’s really no other brands in Asia doing this.”

The brand’s long-term plan includes aggressive expansion to other Asian markets and to grow its personnel alongside the brand. Aside from Buddy Bites’ co-founders, the company’s current team of six includes an operations manager, a performance marketer, a digital marketer, and a full-time developer intern.

With success seen for its three existing kibble products in Hong Kong, Buddy Bites has introduced a new formula featuring a seafood protein — salmon — and a prebiotic blend speaking to premiumization and solution-based nutrition.

Buddy Bites' new Adult Sweet Potato & Salmon dog food formula includes a prebiotic blend to support gut health.Buddy Bites' new Adult Sweet Potato & Salmon dog food formula includes a prebiotic blend to support gut health. (Source: Buddy Bites)

The new product, a Sweet Potato & Salmon recipe, includes a combination of dehydrated and fresh salmon protein, paired with sweet potato as the primary carbohydrate source. The formulation targets heart and skin and coat health, and also supports cognitive function and mobility, according to the company. A prebiotic blend behind this formula also targets gut health in dogs.

The diet was officially made available to consumers in the Hong Kong market on Aug. 12.

“With so many dog food brands on the shelves nowadays it is challenging for dog owners to know which brands are doing their due diligence,” said Tiffany Harries, veterinarian at Buddy Bites. “Buddy Bites ensure their food meets international guidelines for the various life stages and do quality control testing over and above what the Hong Kong regulations require.”

All Buddy Bites products are produced in Europe with support from veterinary professionals. Products are then shipped to Asia, where they are tested by a third-party before being released to the market. All products by Buddy Bites are designed to meet standards set by both the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

The company’s DTC platform allows pet owners to choose from four kibble formulas — three adult diets and one for puppies — then select the amount needed in each shipment and the frequency of shipments. Orders are set up on a subscription basis and can be altered at any time.

All Buddy Bites products will be available to consumers in Singapore starting Aug. 20 through the company’s DTC platform, buddybites.dog.

Black noted the key advantage to running a subscription-based, DTC pet food company is the ability to see customer data in real time and respond accordingly.

“We can see all of our cancellation data, all customer data on what they would like in terms of a product,” he said. “We work with two veterinarians and a nutritionist in the United States to pair their expertise alongside customer data to fill in the gaps in terms of what product offering we need to have.”

Going forward, Buddy Bites will continue blazing its trail in the Asian DTC pet food space. The brand may look to establish select retail partnerships, but is currently focused on developing new products that speak to premiumization — including freeze-dried treats and wet pet food toppers — and fine-tuning its existing portfolio and platform.

“I don’t think we’ll be looking to build a crazy large product portfolio — I think we really want to focus on what we do, which is deliver good quality pet food and also give back to shelters,” Black said. “The real focus is making sure we have a good, tight product portfolio that enables us to grow and feed more shelters, and that suits the market. We want to make sure that we have our ear to the ground with what customer demand looks like and what the science looks like in terms of what nutritionists are looking toward.”

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