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Scratch puts dogs and planet first
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I'm reading
Scratch puts dogs and planet first
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Scratch puts dogs and planet first
Pass it on
Pass it on
15 November 2021

Scratch puts dogs and planet first

Scratch Dog Food founder Mike Halligan shares his love of dogs with us, and the inspiration behind his “honestly good dog food” business

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Discussed in this Story

What drove you to start Scratch? 

I never thought I’d be working in dog food, that’s for sure! I’d been working in eCommerce and was, to be honest, starting to get sick of selling people stuff that they didn’t really need. I quit my job, figured I’d pick up some freelance work to pay the bills and that it’d all work out.

Right as I did, this big media story came out about a major dog food that sadly caused the death of over a hundred dogs and made so many more seriously ill. It turned out that dog food was unregulated which I could not believe. I had a sick dog at the time and started looking into it more and just couldn’t believe how these companies operated and the difference between how a dog food was portrayed, versus what was actually in the food.

I saw that all of the dog food brands were only selling through retail, so I knew there’d be so much room to make a better dog food if I could cut out the store and sell direct to dog owners, putting more money into the actual food and not into discounts and store promotions.

How does Scratch help our dogs and the planet?

It all starts with making the healthiest dog food we can. As a small company, that’s where we make our quickest impact, and hopefully grow enough customers for our impact efforts to really count. We’re a super-premium dog food at a fairer and more affordable price.

Normal dog food in a store is marked up by up to 50% in the store, so we don’t have to worry about that. That lets us spend sooo much more on better quality ingredients. We use meat from the human food supply chain rather than the dodgy stuff that goes into most pet food. So we have better quality produce that is 97% Aussie sourced and really importantly, we include higher quantities of the good stuff and no fillers.

We started as 1% for the Planet members from the get-go, and as we’ve grown we’ve been able to double down on impact. All of our packaging is recyclable, our deliveries carbon offset, and we donate 2% of revenue to climate action and dog welfare through our Paws for the Planet program.

How do the beautiful paws influence the way you do business?   

It’s hard to get too ‘businessey’ when your day consists of getting tagged in Instagram stories of dogs and working out how to improve a dogs health with their humans who are often just lost as to how to navigate what the hell to feed your dog.

I think the biggest thing with Scratch is that we all know what we’re doing this for, and we’re happy and actually wanting to make less money in order to do that. We decided pretty early on that we didn’t want to be the biggest dog food in the country. We wanted to earn the trust of Aussie dog owners and one day be the most trusted brand in the country – and a sustainable business at the same time. Knowing that and having those simple goals of deserving trust while keeping the lights on helps our team make their own decisions and us to give unreasonably great customer service.

Where do you hope to see dog food in the future?

We desperately need transparent labelling.

The industry is unregulated and deliberately so, so that people don’t truly know how to compare dog food and understand what’s really a dog’s food. I mean, you can have as little as 5% beef in a food and still include beef in the name of the product – yet the customer has no idea of knowing that there’s only 5% of it in there. That’s wild to me and makes us so angry.

We don’t expect everyone to adopt our business model or make food to our standard, but at least treat people with respect and let them make an educated assessment of what’s the best thing for their dogs health. Without transparent labelling, it’s all guesswork.

Three years since launch and we’re still the only brand in the country to reveal how much we include of every ingredient, where they come from and why we include it.

Tell us more about your Paws for the Planet Project?

Launching Paws for the Planet was our proudest moment of 2021 and the shining light on a pretty challenging year. We’d always donated 1% of revenue to climate action, and at the start of the year decided that we were sustainable enough as a business now to double that and give back to dog welfare too – specifically a mix of charities that help to prevent dogs ever having to get to rescue organisations.

So we launched our Paws for the Planet program to represent how every single order of our customers contributes to solving those problems.

What dogs do you have and love?  

What dogs don’t I love! The two that really hold a place in my heart are Brandy and Navi. Brandy was a cocker spaniel that I got as a teenager and sadly passed as I was starting to plan creating Scratch. She was one of those dogs with a permanent smile and no bad bones in her body.

Navi was a beautiful labrador that I fostered soon after through an amazing Victorian organisation called Pets of the Homeless. She wasn’t in great shape when we started to take care of her, so she was our Scratch OG. It was amazing to see what difference she could make to me (as an overly stressed guy working out how the hell to start a dog food company) and what our product could make for her (she was the shiniest dog going around Collingwood).

I want more things that inspire me to...

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