The entire pet food market is growing rapidly and is expected to exceed $136B by 2028 from current ~$100B levels. While much attention has been paid to providing dogs with human-grade food recently with a number of new entrants seeking to disrupt the market, the feline food market has been largely overlooked. The cat food market is more consolidated with a few key players with large market shares and little incentive for innovation or change. Made by Nacho, cofounded by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, is a chef-approved cat food brand launched last spring. The company features a wide assortment of both dry food and wet food; all recipes contain ethically sourced and sustainable proteins. Made by Nacho is available through partnerships with pet retailers as well as online through the company’s website and Amazon. A 2-lb bag of dry food retails at $13.99 with a 10-pack of wet cups running $17.89.
AlleyWatch caught up with Made by Nacho CEO Tessa Gould to learn more about the inspiration for the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Made by Nacho just closed a $14M Series A funding round, led by CAVU Venture Partners with participation by New Fare Partners and Mars’ Companion Fund. Our initial seed round was led by Sonoma Brands, bringing total funds raised to date to $24M.
Tell us about the product or service that Made by Nacho offers.
Made by Nacho is the world’s first cat-crafted, chef-approved cat food, founded in April 2021 by Chef Bobby Flay and his cat, Nacho Flay.
At Made by Nacho, we wake up every day thinking about how we can better the lives of cats and cat parents. Naturally, with both a chef and cat as founders, we take a culinary approach to our cat-crafted cat food. For us, that begins with no compromise, premium proteins like cage-free chicken, grass-fed, grain-finished beef, and sustainably caught salmon. We offer both grain-free and grain-friendly options and of course, Nacho’s secret ingredient, savory bone broth, which is not only flavorful but nutritious and key to keeping cats healthy and hydrated. Each Made by Nacho recipe pairs the flavors and textures cats crave with the chef-inspired quality they deserve.
Our current product assortment includes 27 SKUs across four categories, including dry food, wet food in pouches, wet food in cups, and single-ingredient freeze-dried treats; with plans to rapidly expand their assortment this year.
Made by Nacho was launched in April 2021 by Chef Bobby Flay and his cat, Nacho Flay. After years of watching his dad use only the best ingredients for his recipes, Nacho realized his cat food didn’t measure up. Bobby, similarly, wasn’t impressed with the options available for his cats; he wanted food that was healthful, nutritional, and of course, tasted great. So, Nacho and Bobby got to cooking and got some help from the best in the business, like his lifelong vet, Dr. Katja Lang. Thousands of taste tests later, Made by Nacho was born.
How is Made by Nacho different?
Made by Nacho was created to serve all cats and cat parents as the go-to, premium cat food focused on taste and overall nutrition. At Made by Nacho, we truly believe that if you want to make the best cat food, you have to focus only on cats (and, we even took it a step further…our co-founder is literally a cat, after all!). We pride ourselves in never cutting corners; all products offer premium ingredients, more taste, and better nutrition than other cat brands on the market.
What market does Made by Nacho target and how big is it?
The global pet food market has reached a value of over $108B. Within that is cat – which is squarely where we are focused – which currently accounts for $43B and is forecast to reach $60B by 2025. Needless to say, it’s an incredibly large and fast-growing market.
What’s your business model?
We are an omnichannel brand selling both wholesale through pet specialty channels like Petsmart and also direct-to-consumer through our own site, as well as Amazon.
What are your post-COVID office plans?
We launched during COVID as a remote organization and have functioned seamlessly as a remote team thus far. As such, we intend to stay this way for the foreseeable future with a handful of in-person company-wide meet-ups each year.
What was the funding process like?
The funding process was remarkably straightforward and swift. We were fortunate in that one of our co-founders, Elly Truesdell, had done a great job establishing strong relationships from the get-go with a number of really reputable firms including CAVU, and by the time our Series A came around, there was already a lot of inbound interest. CAVU stood out as the best partner to lead our Series A and support our next chapter of growth.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
We’ve been building an attractive business and a formidable team since day one, which meant the fundraising process was highly competitive. The challenge became shielding the team in terms of minimizing distractions so they could remain as focused as possible on the day-to-day operations, which isn’t always easy with a small team – particularly during diligence but we got there!
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Only they can answer that question, but I think it ultimately came down to the following:
- Cat represents a large and growing category, and yet it has been largely overlooked and underinvested in thus far; most of the innovation, focus, and investment is happening in dog-focused companies
- Real traction: cats (and their parents) love our products, and as a result, we’ve had a really incredible first nine months in business; during that period, over 195,000 Made by Nacho transactions were placed either in-store or online
- Team and talent. We have a unique and powerful set of cofounders and executive leadership that brings years of experience in consumer brands, pet wholesale, digital, and growth. We’re very proud of our team and couldn’t be more bullish on their ability to execute our vision.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
In the next 6 months, we’ll be focused on expanding our product offering, distribution channels, growing the team, and expanding our marketing efforts to continue to bring high-quality flavor-focused food to cats everywhere.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
- Start building your network of investors as early as possible and keep these relationships alive and well; even when you’re not actively fundraising
- Do your homework and keep your list of prioritized lead investors tight
- Plan for the best and worst-case scenarios before embarking on your fundraising process including exploring working capital funding options early on
- Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback; good and/or bad
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’re excited to be able to expand our efforts to not only make premium, nutritious and flavorful cat food the norm, but also to become the first, true lifestyle brand specifically for cats.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC?
My Brooklyn go-to’s are Miss Ada in Fort Greene & our neighborhood local, Saraghina’s in Bedstuy. If I’m in the city and the weather is cooperating, I always love the courtyard at Crosby Street Hotel.