Marleybones is Redefining Fresh, Nutritious & Sustainable Dog Food
The Leap Venture Studio blog series is back after completing an exclusive studio program for pet care startups from EU and UK. In September 2023, seven early-stage pet care startups joined the program for 12-weeks to accelerate their ventures. During this time, the companies worked with experts from Mars Petcare, Michelson Found Animals and R/GA Ventures and received venture capital investment, mentorship, and customized programming tailored to meet their needs.
Marleybones Limited (UK) is redefining fresh dog food by offering sustainable, superfood meals with the nutritional benefits of a home cooked diet, served in a convenient pantry- and planet-friendly packaging.
Josephine Rode Bager, Co-founder
Mikala Alexandra Wilson Skov, Co-founder
Tell us about your startup
Mikala: Marleybones was created out of a very personal frustration our co-founder Josephine had with her own dog Marley, a golden cocker spaniel. Marley was both fussy and suffered from indigestion, which meant Josephine was changing dog food more regularly than Leonardo DiCaprio was changing girlfriends.
On the quest to find a food that was better for his health, tastier for his palate and friendlier towards the planet, the idea of Marleybones was born. Fast forward a couple of years and we’re now making thousands of dogs happier and healthier.
Marleybones is the dog dining solution that’s better for our dogs and better for our planet. We’re redefining fresh dog food by offering sustainable, super food meals with the nutritional benefits of a home cooked diet, served in a convenient pantry- and planet-friendly packaging.
By bringing sustainability, convenience, and quality together, we create tailored meal plans for dogs delivered to your doorstep every month.
We’re a pack of health- and eco-conscious dog lovers on a mission to inspire healthy living for dogs, connections between people, and environmental change with lots of joy and love in between. Just as food should.
How has your startup made a difference for pets?
Mikala: I would ask our customers; they really are the best testimony of how we’re making a difference in their dogs’ lives. Their stories range from “always had an upset gastric tummy, your food has stopped this” to “my dog is in much better shape after being on it for a month” and “our picky cockapoo puppy licked her bowl clean for the first time ever”, “overall a much happier dog”, with every review telling a story of how food can make an impactful difference on your pet’s well being.
Many pet owners will recognize these challenges. In fact 50% of all dog owners consider their dogs to be picky eaters and struggle to get them to eat, meanwhile dogs increasingly experience health issues relating to digestion, obesity and allergens from overly exposed ingredients often found in dry and canned dog food. Health issues that can be solved with the right diet.
Unfortunately, pet parents often have to choose between quality and convenience when choosing their dog’s food. Either you can opt for a high-quality product, but this often involves costly, environmentally unfriendly bulky shipments that takes up both your fridge and freezer space plus your time to thaw and prep, or you can opt for the more convenient solutions in dry and canned wet food, but this then often lacks the quality and taste.
We’re here to fill that gap by offering the same nutritional benefits of a home-cooked diet but served in a convenient pantry- and planet-friendly packaging. By filling and sealing our cartons raw, and gently steam cooking them from the outside in, we create dog food that is freshly made and packed with nutrients and bags of flavor, but without the need to freeze it. In combination with our gut-supporting ingredients your dog will enjoy a healthy and happy stomach, and all their needs met in just seconds.
When joining Marleybones we’ll start by asking a few questions about your dog and recommend a plan complete with meals, health-supporting food toppers and treats specifically created for your dog. Our tailored plans help ensure your dog is getting exactly what they need, creating healthier, happier, more convenient lives not only for pets but also pet parents, and guaranteed joy around mealtimes.
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a startup founder and how have you overcome them?
Josephine: The world is constantly changing, and new challenges are thrown at you left, right and centre. During our two years in business, we have been through a global pandemic, inflation reaching historical levels, a cost-of-living-crisis, global supply shortage, and Apple’s iOS update fundamentally changing the efficacy of retargeting advertisement. And we’re still counting. To overcome these, we’ve had to be incredibly agile and reactive to changing market conditions, consumer needs and pains, find creative solutions and cost-effective implementations. In the end, we’ve come out more steadfast and better positioned in the current climate.
What is your biggest take away from the Leap Venture Studio?
Josephine: Leap Venture Studio has been a huge asset for Marleybones. We gained access to a network of industry experts with years of experience and resources to help reach our goals faster. Working with the three Leap partners also provided a breadth of experiences and insights from their work with relatable brands and their willingness to help and create meaningful connections knows no limit. A huge take away from the programme is also the support network of peers from which we can share experiences with and learn from, on each of our journeys towards creating a better world for pets.
You wrap up Leap Venture Studio with a new network of people and supporters, who you continue to lean on for advice and knowledge sharing even after completing the programme.
What advice would you give to fellow pet care founders who are just starting their journey?
Mikala: Solve a real pain-point and invest in your brand. Build a brand that connects with your community and keep listening to your customers, their needs, and their pains. Find out what makes you unique and differentiates you from the competitors and build a brand that reinforces this purpose and story.
Tell us about your pet(s)!
Josephine: Marley is the very long-eared English golden cocker-spaniel you see sitting happily at the dog dining table when you first enter www.marleybones.com. He’s the most handsome fella you’ll ever meet and will forever be in constant denial about his above-average size and his ability to be a lap dog, bless him. He is our biggest inspiration and a daily reminder of how the right diet can impact your dog’s overall health. When we started feeding him Marleybones his health problems went away, and his bowl is guaranteed to be polished off in seconds.
What do you think the future of pet care looks like?
Mikala: Pet parents are becoming more and more aware of the ingredients they feed their pets and what impact their pets have on our planet. I think the future holds a higher demand for more sustainable options, both in choice of ingredients and packaging. A third of pet owners are trying to reduce their own meat consumption, and what we’ve learned from previous years is that purchase decisions in dog food is becoming more aligned with personal purchasing decisions. I think we can expect more pet owners to look for alternative protein in their pet’s diets over the coming years.
Stay tuned: Marleybones will soon be introducing a pantry-fresh insect meal to their food range!
To learn more about Marleybones, visit their website.
Check out Marleybones’ pitch at the Leap Venture Studio Cohort 6 Demo Day that was held on December 15, 2023. If you are interested in connecting with their team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.