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Scratch rises above the competition during Covid-19 lockdown

When the government imposed restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, lifestyle dog brand Scratch was in its element.

The brand offers dog food made out of whole ingredients on a subscription basis. And most importantly, the product is sent directly to the customer’s doorstep.

Mike Halligan, co-founder of Scratch, said people changed their usual buying behaviour when Covid-19 hit, and everything the brand had been working towards before the coronavirus outbreak suited the moment.

“A lot of folks were after dog food [that could be] delivered,” Halligan said.

On top of existing consumer behaviour shifts towards the customer being in control, wanting to know the origins of the products they buy and make more considered purchasing decisions, Scratch was well positioned to grow.

In April, the direct-to-consumer brand grew its subscriptions by 100 per cent on the same period three months prior. In 18 months, they have amassed over 5,000 subscribers.

“I think great brands are built on a promise that your team rallies around and delivers on over time,” Halligan said.

“You see some brands run a heap of Facebook ads to test what promise resonates and run with those learnings, but Scratch was just born off myself and my business partner hating how the dog food industry operated and how much worse the food was than any of us realised,” he said. “We promise healthy dog food with honest business that you can trust.”

Scratch has two recipes, the turkey, beef and lamb, and a kangaroo recipe.

“They’re both made in NSW with tons of Australian produce and about as much meat as you’ll find in a kibble,” Halligan said.

“My business partner Doug is an ingredient nerd,” he said. “His background was sourcing ingredients from all over the country and Asia for the pet industry, so we really built the recipes around not just including an ingredient because it looks great on a label, but balancing them properly, using less processed stuff from Aussie farmers and better grade meats.”

Scratch will introduce a third recipe in September, but Halligan said the offering will remain streamlined, since most customers’ dogs already love the existing recipes.

“The wider we branch out the more we just end up like the confusing incumbents struggling to make sense of why each of their 15 recipes is suitable,” he said. “I think we’ll turn our attention to healthy treats as most of them are full of salt and sugar.”

Dog food is a competitive market, according to Halligan, with pet store aisles displaying dozens of brands with dozens of options. He said the most emerging competition is in fresh food made in a kitchen.

The more options on the market, the more confusing it is for customers, Halligan said. And this is an advantage to Scratch.

“When you jump online, you check out our brand and see two products,” he said. “It’s a lot more simple to understand and get behind.”

Halligan said people are also willing to pay extra for dog food brands if they know how it is made and what is in it.

“People would be horrified if they knew what was in most foods or how misleading or flat out untruthful most of the labeling is,” he said.

“So much of our food is about fixing gut health which forms so much of a dog’s immune system, skin, energy and overall mood.”

With the business gaining more popularity and the site getting positive reviews from customers, Halligan said what they are really focusing on right now is “growing the business in a way that always does right by dogs”.

“We’ve had waitlists up for new customers for the better part of the last year but we’re through those supply constraints and welcoming thousands of dogs each month to Scratch,” he said.

“It’d be easy to drop the ball on the things that made customers and their dogs respond so well to what we’re doing, so we’re in many ways trying to do less, but better and for more people [and] their furry compadres.”

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