Mooch and Gander: A look at the pet industry in 2021

Lisa Baptiste, founder of Mooch and Gander, shares her insight on upcoming pet trends and advises how prospective small businesses can get their foot in the door when it comes to entering the pet industry

For the many pet owners in the UK, the costs of looking after a pet are extensive, yet owners are still willing to pay for premium services from groomers, veterinary requirements to dietary indulgences. The latest trend for pet owners takes a step away from luxury and moves into the sustainability product market.

For years plastic-wrapped packaging was the norm, yet with the pandemic in full-swing and people on furlough for the past year, a more sustainable eco-friendly lifestyle has hit home.

Lisa Baptiste, who started Mooch and Gander, an eco-sustainable marketplace for pet products with her husband, has climbed to success in a short period of time. She says that the sudden interest in being healthy and eco-friendly within pet companies was due to the “realisation” that owners will pay more if it means their pets can have “natural products that are good not only for themselves but for the environment as well”.

The convenience of online retailers such as Amazon has meant that waiting times for products have fallen dramatically, yet the plastic coverings that come in the box – usually non-recyclable – are thrown into the bin. By taking the time to care about where the rubbish will end up and knowing there are ways to avoid adding to the landfills, Baptiste argues it is worth spending more money in the long run and that shoppers are coming to understand this too.

She first started a pet care business seven years ago called the Perfect Pet Nanny, which looks after all animals. In mid-February last year when the pandemic hit the UK, her business shut overnight. Baptiste, who has coined the phrase “the silver lining to the Covid cloud” to describe her experience, had been sitting on an idea to set up an eco-friendly marketplace for pets for years and was finally able to put this thought into action as Covid allowed her enough time to formulate a plan.

The business launched in November 2020 and already has 70 partners and a total of 900 products from UK businesses. Since then, the company has offered advice, as well as a forum and place to connect for small business owners within the eco-friendly pet industry.

Following on from her success, Baptiste is now looking to share some of her insight and advice on the ever-changing marketplace and explain how businesses can develop themselves within it. She also reflects on the emerging trends the pet industry has seen amid the Covid-crisis.

The most recent trend Baptiste has noted is the rise of micro pet businesses, which have emerged during the ongoing pandemic period. With a higher volume of people working from home it provided a “hobby or a kitchen table business” a perfect chance to take their sustainable pet product ideas which they had been working on, to the next level.

A change towards healthier treats and food, alongside enrichment toys, has also created a demand that prior to the pandemic was not as present, as people recently have become more aware of the impact they have on the environment. In addition, Baptiste estimates that there is roughly 20% growth in millennials wanting their pets to follow the same trends as them in food, accessories, social media accounts and subsequently eating healthily.

Baptiste also suggests there will be a rise in wearable pet apps, such as dog trackers and monitors. There will be “a nod” to the healthy premium foods such as insect-based pet food, which offers nutritional value and could become the “latest phenomena” for the industry.

In addition, she predicts that mobile grooming services will flourish this year. As shops remain closed for the foreseeable future, she says groomers who can come to customers rather than traditionally the other way around will become “exceedingly popular” in both convenience and necessity for pets.

For small businesses wanting to enter the pet industry in any capacity, but primarily the sustainable route, the number one advice Baptiste offers is to “research, research, research”. Knowing your marketplace and more importantly who your competitors are will make a difference between those that are successful and not, according to Baptiste.

She also urges prospective pet entrepreneurs to have a niche, and “if you don’t have one, find one”. According to Baptiste, who herself is known for her “niche” pet rat advice, a lot of artisans who are currently emerging in the industry created products “that they themselves couldn’t find”, which in turn can “make them the resident expert on that particular product”.

Additionally, once a business becomes an expert in certain areas within the pet industry, it will help build up confidence.

Another crucial key for small businesses is, according to Baptiste, to know who their ideal customer is. In fact, she advises that “actually writing down on a piece of paper who your ideal customer is will really help you formulate, sell and talk about your products”.

Perhaps the most important piece of advice for small businesses is to “know their worth” and to not be afraid to increase prices, she says. Whilst it gives companies a competitive edge to offer the lowest prices, in the long run it won’t be sustainable as companies can get overwhelmed with high orders.

Baptiste reiterates: “Don’t be afraid to narrow the amount of product you have available, don’t say yes for everything and offer free postage, because it’s not free to you and all of those things cut into your bottom line.

“Sit down and work out exactly how much one item is costing you to make and produce, work out exactly to the very last penny how much it cost you and how much you want to pay yourself per hour.”

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