Michael Waxman, co-founder and CEO of dog food startup Sundays, acknowledged that dog owners have no shortage of options when it comes to feeding their beloved pets — but he still thinks there's room for something new.
“There’s a sort of ‘Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink' phenomenon,” Waxman said. “There are over 3,000 dog foods, and yet I think there isn’t really one that is the no brainer, compelling answer.”
Sundays “soft launched” its first product in February and now has around 1,000 paying customers. It's launching more broadly today, and is also announcing that it has raised $2.27 million in funding from Red Sea Ventures, Box Group, Great Oaks Ventures, Matt Salzberg, Zach Klein and others.
Waxman's past startups include dating app Grouper, while his wife/co-founder Tory Waxman is a veterinarian (and serves as the startup's chief veterinary officer). He told me that the two of them became interested in pet food a couple years ago when one of their dogs started to have stomach issues, and they “went down this rabbit hole of trying to find the best dog food.”
The market can be divided two broad categories, Waxman said. There's kibble, which is relatively cheap and affordable but not as healthy. And then there's refrigerated food, including direct-to-consumer options like The Farmer's Dog, which are healthier but also pricier and require more preparation.
“Those are so unbelievably inconvenient,” Waxman argued. “You're not going to find too many people crazier about their dogs than we are, and we would do literally anything for our dogs — except prepare their food for an hour a day.”
So he's pitching Sundays as a “new, third category of dog food between kibble and refrigerated.” It's supposed to be human-grade dog food that's 90% fresh meat, organs and bones, created through a unique air drying process.
For dog owners who rely on kibble, Waxman said the startup offers “a much higher quality product that tastes much better and doesn't compromise on the convenience that you’re used to,” while for owners who currently pay for refrigerated options, he promised “an all around unbelievable increase in convenience, without any compromise in quality and taste.”
Several early customers compared the food to beef jerky in their reviews. Waxman added that in taste tests, dogs preferred Sundays to premium kibble 40-to-0.
The food is available for both one-time and subscription purchase. A single 40 ounce box currently costs $75, while the same box costs $59 via subscription.
Waxman suggested that it hasn't been easy getting to this point — with a new process for creating dog food, “there were no supply chains set up for this.” Ultimately, he said Sundays selected a “USDA-monitored jerky kitchen in the U.S. to create this new form factor.”
“It took us much longer than we expected,” he admitted. “However, the short-term headache is a long-term feature that we’re really excited about. Ultimately, it should serve as a pretty deep moat to prevent would-be competitors from offering similarly high quality and differentiated products.”