Dogs. They provide us with unconditional love, they’re free of judgment, and they’re really, really cute. They get us out of bed, out of the house, and provide laughs galore when they do stuff like dig in their water bowl, slide across the floorboards chasing their favourite stuffed toy, or frolic through the park munching on a squeaky ball. In short: dogs are the best.
So why would we feed them food with sketchy ingredients?
“I was shopping around for food for my own dog, and I remember thinking ‘I can’t tell what’s actually good here’,” explains Bank Australia customer Mike Halligan, co-founder of B Corp-certified Scratch Pet Food. “I know a lot about nutrition and shop a certain way for myself to work out what’s healthy – and what’s not – and you just can’t do that with dog food.”
There’s no government oversight in Australia’s pet food industry, so just about anything can get thrown into your dog’s dinner, including dodgy by-products (such as meat from dying and diseased animals) and cheap ingredients. Two of the major players in the Australian pet food industry, covering a whopping 80% of what’s on shelves, are actually chocolate companies.
Together with business partner Doug Spiegelhauer, Mike set out to create something that dog owners would know was a nutritious option for their pets. “We started Scratch to create a transparency-first brand with better food, that you could really dig into – and the deeper you dug, the more impressed you’d be about what you found,” says Mike.
Scratch is the first – and only – B Corp-certified pet food company in Australia (and one of only five in the world), and used the B Corp framework to help them set up a business that would be a force for good. “We started doing the impact assessment before we even sold a product, to learn what we’d have to do to be as good as our intentions,” Mike explains. “The impact assessment, for us, is more valuable than getting the actual certification.”
Moving their money to a B Corp-certified bank was a no brainer for Mike and Doug. “Banking is a service you use every day, but you don’t really think about what it means to be giving your money to these banks,” Mike recalls. “The B Corp process really taught us where our money goes, and that with many big corporates and non-B Corp banks, it goes to things we’re adamantly against.”
So what makes Scratch different to the other food you see in the pet food aisle? For starters, you won’t see it in shops. While some other dog foods are manufactured, packaged, and then held in a warehouse until it’s ready to ship, Scratch works on a subscription model, so the food is essentially made-to-order and there’s less waste.
“We can know exactly who we're making food for, what recipe they're going to have, and when they need it,” Mike explains. “The dog ends up with something way more nutritious, and we’re able to make food that’s much fresher.”
The second point of difference is what actually goes into Scratch kibble.
“We only use whole ingredients instead of anything overly powdered or processed to begin with,” Mike says, “And we use meat from the human food supply chain, so it doesn’t have the environmental impact of animals that are raised purely for pet food meat consumption.”
Part of Scratch’s business model includes donating 2% of their revenue; 1% goes to Australian-based climate action charities, and another 1% goes to dog welfare, including desexing programs and vet care for dogs of people who are experiencing homelessness and financial hardship. “We’re not trying to be the biggest brand in the country,” Mike says. “We just want to continue to feed as many dogs that need us as possible.”
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