Subscription-based dog food retailer Ollie has begun selling its customized dog food on the Walmart Inc.-owned marketplace Jet.com.
Ollie customizes meals for dogs based on a consumer’s dog’s profile, recommends the appropriate portion for the dog and delivers a ready-to-serve meal to the shopper’s door. Every meal comes with a custom scoop so the customer can dish out the correct portion for their dog.
This is the first time since Ollie’s launch in October 2016 that its dog food line has been sold on a retail site other than MyOllie.com. Before launching its products wholesale on Jet.com (No. 22 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Online Marketplaces) in mid-June, Ollie has solely operated as a digitally native vertical brand.
“As we’re looking to continue to expand and grow, we wanted to test out wholesale to drive awareness,” says Ollie co-founder Gabby Slome. “We felt that Jet was very aligned with us in wanting to create great customer experiences. They are very careful about the brands they select to work with, and we felt like they would do a great job at helping protect our brand.”
Since its launch, Ollie has had a tremendously high sales growth, Slome says, declining to provide a specific sales figure. Its web traffic has climbed in the last six months from 28,573 visits in December 2017 to consistently around 80,000 visitors in April and May 2018, according to web measurement firm SimilarWeb. Its first dog food offerings were chicken and beef recipes before adding turkey and lamb recipes and a line of dog snacks in 2017.
Ollie is different from other subscription services, Slome says. On MyOllie.com, shoppers can purchase one meal at a time, rather than signing up for a subscription service. And consumers’ pets are not restricted to one meal plan for all time; they can change it up as time goes because a puppy is going to have different dietary needs than a senior dog that may develop health issues, Slome says. “We’re really tailoring the program to meet your dog’s individual needs, and we recommend the exact portion your dog needs and send that to you direct,” she says.
From the beginning, Ollie invested heavily in its food production and fulfillment operations. “Food safety is most important, and we had to ship the food fresh and ensure it stayed fresh in transit,” Slome says.
Ollie does not use any third-party fulfillment vendors and runs its cold chain, or temperature-controlled, operations out of its three distribution centers—located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Reno, Oklahoma; and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The positioning of those warehouses enables it to reach the entire nation—save for Alaska and Hawaii—within two days for ground shipping, Slome says.
Jet, however, doesn’t have nationwide cold chain operations, Slome says, so Jet is only selling Ollie’s fresh-food chicken and beef recipes in the regions it can guarantee the one- to two-day ground shipping, which includes New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and New Jersey, Slome says. However, Jet sells its single-ingredient snacks in beef, chicken, turkey and sweet potato flavors in all the other markets it reaches. The snacks don’t require the cold chain because they are baked to reduce the water level in them. Spoilage mechanisms grow when there is water activity but because Ollie removes the moisture from the product, they are shelf-stable without being in cold chain, Slome explains.
This is not the first time a digitally native vertical brand has looked to a larger retailer with greater reach to sell its products. Barkbox dog toys and treats are sold in Target’s 1,800 stores and online at Target.com, and men’s grooming products retailer Harry’s (No. 218 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500) sells its products at both Target (No. 17) and Walmart (No. 3).