NomNomNow Inc. is taking a fresh approach to dog food by selling fresh, ready-to-eat meals for pets that consumers buy online.
NomNomNow.com launched in May 2015 as a site where shoppers can buy a week’s worth of freshly prepared meals that they store in their refrigerator for dogs or cats. Shoppers fill out a questionnaire about their pet, such as his weight, target weight, birthday and food preferences. Depending on the size of the dog and food in the box, the box of 14 single-serve meals starts at $20 but could cost more than $120 per week.
NomNomNow positions itself as a healthy choice consumers should make for their dog. Each meal is cooked fresh in a commercial kitchen, portion controlled and approved by a veterinary nutritionist.
“This is not something that is meant to be a treat, not something you buy occasionally, not something you should be mixing in with other food,” says CEO and co-founder Nate Phillips.
And this fresh twist is working, as NomNomNow has thousands of customers, has made tens of thousands of pet meals and generated “millions” in revenue in 2017, which was a 600% sales increase over 2016, Phillips says. For 2018, the retailer is projecting 400-600% sales growth, and sales have increased a double-digit percentage month over month, every month since inception, Phillips says.
NomNomNow’s founding and growth
Phillips got the idea for NomNomNow in 2015 when he was shopping for his new puppy and discovered not much has changed about what dogs eat in the past 20 years. The process was much the same as it was when he was a kid: Buy a heavy bag of kibble at the grocery store and store it in the garage.
While the rise of e-commerce has changed the delivery of pet food with digitally native brands like Chewy Inc. (acquired by PetSmart Inc., No. 50 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500), or how humans buy toys for their pets, with subscription box BarkBox, actual pet food has not changed much and the industry was ripe for reinvention, Phillips says.
Phillips casually surveyed consumers at local dog parks in the Bay area about what they fed their dogs and found dog owners did one of three things: bought kibble, found a pet food brand they liked at a boutique pet store that was across town or cooked food for their dog. While cooking a fresh-food diet for a pet sounds extreme, Phillips found people who were doing it. Plus, it’s really not that crazy when considering the health of the pet, Phillips says.
“What we eat matters to us, and what pets eat matters to them,” Phillips says.
At the start, Phillips shopped his product around at local dog parks, street fairs and pet conferences and took orders there with no website. People were willing to pay invoices and started referring their friends, and within a few months NomNomNow started to grow. The retailer launched its website, polished its branding, scaled up its operations and moved through a series of commercial kitchens to keep pace with its orders. It wasn’t until the first quarter of 2018 did NomNomNow finally feel like it operated out of a large enough kitchen space to accommodate its orders, Phillips says. Now, NomNomNow has about 25 employees working in its Oakland, California headquarters.
NomNomNow built its own e-commerce website and backend. The retailer’s backend technology sums all of the orders and translates it so NomNomNow knows how many ingredients it needs to buy to cook all of the meals and the number of box labels it needs.
The retailer is continually growing its customer base, so it’s hard to give an accurate repeat-buyer rate, Phillips says. However, he says more than 50% of its early cohort of shoppers from 2.5 years ago when NomNomNow was in a beta mode are still buying products.
NomNomNow’s future path
The fresh-food subscription market makes sense for dogs in ways that it doesn’t for humans, Phillips says. For example, keeping a dog on a diet is not as hard, he says. “Dogs don’t go on a fad diet or drink with friends,” Philips says.
In addition, meal-kit delivery services are competing with all of the other options consumers have to pick from for dinner, while few places down the block are selling fresh-made dog food, he says.
NomNomNow is using Facebook and search engine marketing, such as content marketing to build its SEO and paid ads via Google Adwords, to drive traffic to its site.
NomNomNow has found that if a shopper’s Facebook profile picture includes his or her pet, that’s a good indicator on whether they’re a good fit as a customer. That’s the level of engagement that is common for a shopper to commit to this type of diet for their pet, Phillips says.
The retailer is not yet profitable, however, Phillips says the retailer is currently focused on growth. NomNomNow joins another fresh pet food e-retailer, Ollie Pet Inc., in chasing that growth. Ollie launched in October 2016 and sells through MyOllie.com. In June it began selling through Walmart Inc.’s Jet marketplace to drive awareness and sales. It’s raised $17 million from investors.
NomNomNow has raised $13 million in funding, with $10 million of that raised in May, with participation from venture capital firms Bullish, CircleUp, e.ventures, Tandem Capital and Greycrot.Favorite