Behind the Bix... Part One: How it all began

Behind the Bix... Part One: How it all began

One of the most common questions I'm asked as the founder of BuggyBix is "how did you come up with the idea to use insects in pet food?"

Like most ideas, our story has humble beginnings... it was a winter's morning & I was enjoying a morning coffee with my wife near our local dog park.

Admiring the playful pups, our conversation naturally tended towards dogs & we began discussing different pet food trends. We had recently looked after a friend's dog who was on a strict homemade diet due to health reasons. It was around this time, the show Pet Fooled had aired, sparking awareness & scrutiny of the pet food industry. As a result, raw feeding & grain-free diets had been gaining popularity. 

As we were talking, we discussed how it was great to see pets being fed better quality ingredients & how this was having a positive impact on their health. In the moment, it dawned on me that people care now more than ever about their furry pal's nutrition however, at the same time the global community is staring into a strained food system.

Worldwide there are approximately 225 million domestic dogs. This, in addition to the global population (which is expected to increase by 400 million people in only 5 years*), is lot of additional mouths!

What was also clear is that our love of dogs has seen the pet food market rapidly expand over the past few years. Pet lovers want the best nutrition for their pets & the growing demand for human-grade meat proteins in pet foods is challenging supply. 

I started thinking, surely there may be other options to nourish our pets & reduce this strain. The thought was spinning in my mind. Any new product needed to complement the existing pet food landscape. It had to be both great nutritionally for pets & a great outcome for our planet. I turned to my wife & said, "We have all heard about insects being a 'food of the future'... What if insects could be an option for pets as well?".

Having heard a little about edible insects it seemed to be a reasonable question. But were insects even suitable to use in pet foods? She looked at me with a half-smile, "...while it's not so common here, people across the world eat them as part of their diet, maybe it could!". As someone who asks me to remove every bug from the house, her enthusiasm was a strong endorsement for me to start investigating whether this may fly. 

As I started to research, I began learning about the excellent nutritional & environmental benefits associated with black soldier fly, mealworms & crickets, all of which (surprisingly) were being grown by local Australian producers.

The research revealed that not only were the nutritional profiles of some insects comparable to existing meat products, but they were also a hypoallergenic source of protein & actually easier for dogs to digest & absorb into the body. 

This was the 'lightbulb moment'. This was the point at which a somewhat half-baked idea suddenly became both a potential reality but also a chance to be part of an emerging industry within Australia. 

For context, the insect industry was very nascent at the time. You could count the number of Australian insect growers on one hand. Fortunately, that was all we needed to test out our hypothesis. Insects, at least in small batches, were available. The supply question was ticked (pun intended)...

The next natural question was whether we were late to the insect party or was it a novel idea? Would we be different or competing with many other men & their dogs? Within Australia, all of our searches for local competitors yielded no results. Internationally, there were some very early-stage businesses in Europe & North America however they were still finding their feet. This was exciting! There was an opportunity to be an Australian first.

Now it was one thing to have an idea that was seemingly feasible, however the desirable & viable questions remained unanswered. Did anyone actually want to purchase a product that incorporated edible insects? How much would it cost to produce? What on earth would we make? 

Enter our friend... market research.

To test sentiment & understand current perceptions, preferences & willingness to purchase, we engaged a market research firm to survey the public. The results were both unexpected & exciting!

Our participants fell into one of three buckets: 30% were not interested & were closed to the idea (that's okay, you can't win 'em all). 40% were interested however needed more information so they could make an informed decision. 30% loved the concept & the environmental proposition.

Given there was no precedence in the Australian market, my rose-coloured glasses figured we had a potential 70% of dog owners interested or willing to support.

Interestingly, three themes also shone through. For pet owners to consider a new product, it needed to be good for dogs, contain natural ingredients & ideally be Australian made. These became the guiding principles for what was to become BuggyBix.

Whilst there were still many unknowns, a leap of faith was staring me in the eyes. It was crunch-time... or at least time to don an apron & start playing with bugs!

To be continued...


*UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs: World population projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100 | United Nations

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