Pet adoption rates have skyrocketed during the pandemic. And the owners of an all-natural dog nutrition brand that started out with a homemade recipe for a senior dog are winning big. Brutus Broth has inked deals with major retailers like Target, Petco, Chewy.com, and thousands of boutique pet stores nationally.
Small Business Trends contacted Kim Hehir and Sue Delegan, founders of the successful small business. We wanted to find out how they turned “love and grandma’s bone broth,” into an expanding enterprise.
How Brutus Broth Grew Into a Leading Dog Brand
The story starts in a place everyone can relate to. With the love of a dog.
“It all began on Thanksgiving Day 2016 when a family member asked what we attributed Brutus’ longevity to,” Hehir says.
As a pup the company namesake had a very active life. Then, like most older dogs, Brutus developed health issues. The partners explained how they tackled the issue.
“We found that adding bone broth to his diet provided him with a tastier, more easily digestible meal,” Delegan says. “It also gave him added nutritional benefits.”
A Successful Startup
The result was a successful startup. According to the cofounders, their product adds tasty nutrition to your pets’ diet in an easy convenient way. The compassionate approach the two started the business with led them to make their product different in big ways.
“From a product perspective, we brought something to market that the pet industry hasn’t seen before,” she says. “Brutus Broth is of a higher quality than most human broths on the market. And it’s the only one fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin.”
There’s more to the lengths they went to in developing it. The result is a product that’s different from the competition.
“We worked with a team that develops nutrient broths for over forty hunger relief organizations feeding third world countries,” Hehir says. “First and foremost, we produced a high quality, human grade product that is fortified with supplements. Our entire positioning is centered around accessibility.”
The Brutus Broth Company knew how to market, too.
“We went after the grocery market first,” Hehir says. “There were no other pet food toppers of our quality offered in grocery stores.”
The Right Recipe
Brutus Broth has the right recipe to make it. They enjoyed initial success selling the product on grocery store shelves until COVID-19. Then the company made a move that’s getting more and more familiar in these uncertain times.
“When the pandemic hit, we had to quickly pivot to add new distribution channels,” Delegan says. “Consumers’ shopping habits had changed and we wanted to stay competitive and top-of-mind. So we shifted to a more digital focus and made a greater push online.”
They also had some good fortune working for them. The ingredients for Brutus Broth are American-made so they didn’t get hit hard by any supply chain issues. Being classified an essential service by Amazon also helped their fortunes. But there was one more surprise Delegan didn’t see coming.
“What we didn’t foresee was that the pandemic would cause such a rise in pet adoptions. That was a nice surprise,” she says.
The company also owes their success to a socially responsible attitude. Hehir explains, “We pride ourselves on giving back and have incorporated a robust philanthropic platform We’ve developed the Brutus Broth Kids Committee to educate kids about entrepreneurship. And we are members of the Pet Sustainability Coalition.”
The pair had some good suggestions for small businesses struggling through the pandemic.
They took the time to put together customer data and metrics. These showed retailers how Brutus Broth fit in with their product mix.
“Make your business case as to why a retailer should carry your product. People aren’t going to buy it because YOU think you have a cool idea. You need to demonstrate how your product solves problems….even the ones they don’t realize they have yet.”
Hehir supplies some final advice: “We stayed focused and persistent when building the relationships.”