Tony the Bulldog Needs Supplements too...

I recently had a chance to chat with Anja Skodda—biotech scientist, serial entrepreneur, and pet parent extraordinaire. View that video above.

She is the founder of HappyBond, a startup creating pet supplements that can extend the mobility and health of your four-legged friends.

While many industries suffered in 2020, the pet space managed a solid year.

The $103.6 billion spent on pets topped all projections. And now, the industry is on track to reach a whopping $358.62 billion by 2027.

This all comes on the back of a COVID-borne boom in pet ownership, an increase in pet spending, and a switch to e-commerce.

These trends didn’t just help the industry as a whole grow, it also created an opportunity for startups like Anja’s.

Needless to say, this is quite an exciting market to be in right now.

Today, I’d like to share some of the best takeaways from my conversation with Anja. We’ll get into her company’s story, products, and numbers, as well as the major trends within the pet care industry.

How It All Started, Tony the Bulldog

Anja’s idea for a new type of pet nutrition came about when her dog, Tony, developed arthritis in his shoulder.

Tony was a bulldog, and he loved to skateboard. But as his arthritis progressed, he lost that ability.

Being a scientist, Anja decided to get to work on a solution. She crafted a special formula to restore Tony's joint health and give him mobility again.

Within a week his shoulder was getting better. Shortly after Tony was back on his board skating happily once again.

Today, that very same formula is HappyBond’s number one product.

The Product

Anja’s patent-pending formula contains collagen, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants. This formula is called HappyAgain, and it is proven to activate collagen biosynthesis and reduce joint inflammation in dogs. Additionally, it supports healthy energy levels, digestion, skin, and coat.

There are three versions of this supplement, each for a different age group.

The flagship product, HappyAgain, is targeted at older dogs.

HappyStart is a similar product for puppies and young dogs that has the same benefits but focuses more on prevention.

Lastly, HappyDays is for adult dogs that may not have serious issues yet but need some prevention as well as joint restoration.

From the beginning, Anja wanted natural and high-quality products, something different from the others on the market. As a proud pet parent herself, she only makes products that work, ones that really make dogs' lives better.

HappyBond products are made of 100% active ingredients. There are no chemicals, additives, or fillers—nothing is synthetic and everything is human-grade.

In today's market, this kind of transparency and integrity of a product is key.

For example, millennials, who own more pets than any other generation, are far more likely to buy health-conscious dog products. Around 70% of them choose natural and organic products over the competition.

What’s more, 61% of all U.S. pet owners are willing to pay more money for foods that target their pet’s dietary needs.

Pet Supplement Market

We have gone over the projected growth of the pet care industry, but how much of that comes from supplements?

Multivitamins, prebiotics, minerals, and omega fatty acids for dogs are still a relatively new phenomenon, these products have gained serious traction over the past few years.

In 2019, pet supplements were a $637.6 million market.

Industry projections predict a 6.4% CAGR from 2020 to 2027, bringing the market to just under a billion dollars. This growth is being attributed to generational values, the humanization of pets, and a general interest in health and wellness.

While pet food still occupies the largest slot in the pet care market, treats and supplements are just about tied in second.

And from what I can see, pet supplements may be one of the fastest-growing up-and-comers in the space right now.

Progress and Growth Through the Pandemic

The pet care space exceeded expectations during COVID-19 not only because of e-commerce but also from spikes in pet ownership and spending.

In 2020, the pet adoption rate went up by 60%. During this same period, average spending on pets rose by 21%.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, through bootstrapping and planning, HappyBond managed to grow by 200%.

Over this year, Anja and her team launched their new website enabling them to go direct-to-consumer.

Even with most brick-and-mortar retailers shut down and few wholesale deals on the table, HappyBond quadrupled revenue between Q1 and Q2 of 2020.

Celebrity Endorsements

Word of mouth is always a great way for startups to get exposure and bring in new customers. While HappyBond experienced plenty of that, it also managed to land a few massive-impact endorsements.

The first celebrity to come on board was none other than Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer.

Cesar’s dog, Junior, was having mobility issues caused by joint pain. Junior was on pain medications but his health still suffered. Cesar had “tried everything,” giving Junior different supplements and medications, but nothing was bringing back the lost mobility or helping him to live a younger, healthier life.

Anja contacted Cesar, they talked, and she sent him some of her product, HappyAgain.

The product worked—Junior regained mobility! Cesar was even able to take him off of his pain meds. Anja’s formula was the only thing on the market that had such an impact.

Now all Cesar’s dogs use HappyBond products.

Cesar instantly wanted to be a part of HappyBond. He contacted Anja, became a vocal supporter of the company across social media, and the rest is history.

Next, actress Halle Berry came on board. She and Anja signed a partnership agreement to co-create four new products. While these are still in the works, Anja told me that they will be new supplements that are preventative in nature. They will alleviate digestion issues, boost the immune system, and promote skin and coat health.

These two household names joining in, spreading the word, even co-creating products is a massive win for Anja and her team. Cesar Milan alone has 11 million followers across social media. And his fans trust him when it comes to dogs.

Plans For 2021 and Beyond

Last year ended with a huge pickup in wholesale. Q1 2020 to Q1 2021 saw 422% wholesale growth.

Around the bend, Anja and her team will be working with strategic partners to roll out a new product line in a new space within the pet care industry—dog food.

As of our interview, she couldn’t disclose much, but she did say that they were going to bring “novelty into the pet food space.”

She also mentioned working on another product expansion that she can’t yet reveal, but did say that it involves another strategic partnership and has her very excited.

This year will also see HappyBond touring on its first trade show.

2021 is the big “launch year” for HappyBond that has been rolling successfully on the back of a hard-fought 2020.

Moving forward, Anja’s goal is to surpass $1 million in revenue by the end of 2021, before launching into a 2022 that will see many new products and partnerships come to fruition, bringing revenue up to a projected $4 to $5 million.

Marketing, Margins, CAC, and LTV

Anja’s team seems to have worked out a rounded marketing strategy that will help HappyBond to grow along its ambitious roadmap.

Most of the marketing is outsourced, coming from a professional agency.

Along with this paid media component, HappyBond focuses on PR and brand recognition, mostly through virtual events and outreach, as well as in-person events when that becomes available again.

For Anja, paid media to get eyes on products and make quick sales isn’t enough—the whole package needs to be there. Using a combination of paid media, PR, branding, and education, the goal is to retain customers—to keep them coming back.

So far, this strategy is working.

The paid media translates to a 4X ROI on Facebook and a 10X ROI on Google. This comes at a customer acquisition cost, or CAC, of around $20.

Now, considering that HappyBond’s most popular product is sold for $39.99 with a 78% profit margin, every first purchase is profitable.

And to top it off, the LTV, or lifetime value, of Anja's customers over six months is $210.

Another confirmation of the branding and marketing side of things is that 40% of all customers are subscribers, which means they make automatic purchases on a set schedule—a great sign of trust for a young company.

Final Thoughts

Not only has the pandemic pushed more customers to e-commerce, but it has raised questions around health and wellness.

The societal trend toward a more natural and healthy lifestyle, fueled in part by a greater interest in healthy products, has trickled down into the pet space.