The book “Big Kibble” was recommended to me by my library algorithm and it looked like a regular business book about the “Dog Food” industry.
Big surprise! Initially I thought I was reading a timely “hit” piece by a start-up pet food company on their large competitors. I came to that conclusion, because the introduction made it pretty clear that it was written by the two founders of a dog food company competing with the “Big Boys”.
I decided to continue reading. It was clear they had done their research. Interestingly enough, the pet food industry is structured the same way as the whiskey industry. 99% of the production capacity is controlled by 5 to 7 companies. Those same companies control the majority of brands. The customer may not realize that, the supper yummy premium brand at their favorite pet store contains nearly the same food as is in the bag of Walmart’s ultra cheap value label. That research alone is worth buying the book if you are a dog owner.
The underlying fact to the book is, that the authors are founders of a company that prepares dog food like a restaurant prepares human food. Ideally the product is picked up fresh and fed to your dog the same or next day. They created a functional business model around that concept. To overcome the last mile problem they created satellite kitchens inside Petco stores in major cities.
While this book attempts to be the 21st century version of Upton Sinclair’s book “The Jungle” , it does not quite get there. Nevertheless, it is a brutal exposé of what happens when an industry is lightly regulated and controlled by a few companies. Just take a look at this list of recalls!
Should you read the book?
I recommend reading the book if you are a dog owner. Also, if you are contemplating a start-up in this market. Mr. Buckley and Dr. Chavez have created a business model that is capable of standing up to companies like Mars, while still sticking to their principals of using the same quality standards for dog food as we do for people food!