WagWell Is Bringing Beauty Industry Standards to the Pet Wellness Business

Pet wellness continues to gain momentum as new brands enter the space offering better quality products that meet the demands of today’s pet parents. Often referred to as the humanization of pets, the phenomenon reflects the modern lifestyles of (largely Millennial and Gen Z) consumers who look to find the same standards for their pets as themselves.

According to reports from Grand View Research Inc. the pet care market is expected to reach nearly $236.2 billion by 2030. And while spoiling their pets has been reflected in holiday budgets over the last few seasons, pet parents are perhaps most focused on preventative health, including buying foods, supplements and treats with human-grade, sustainable ingredients.

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William Smolen, cofounder and chief executive officer of WagWell.
William Smolen, cofounder and chief executive officer of WagWell.

Notably, Pet Biz Marketer finds that freeze-dried dog food is becoming one of the fastest-growing niche food categories. The American Pet Products Association predicts that in 2024, pet food and treats will reach $66.9 billion in sales in the U.S.

WagWell aims to capitalize on growth in the pet sector. Cofounded by beauty industry veteran and self-proclaimed “product dork,” William Smolen, formerly of Make Beauty, WagWell’s products aim to bring innovation to the pet sector using criteria borrowed from the beauty industry.

Smolen said there is an opportunity for innovation in pet wellness, and that WagWell does extensive research to provide better, easier or more effective products than what’s already on the market.

“In a world where consumers are increasingly seeking holistic approaches to self care and well-being, WagWell recognized that consumers want to provide their dogs with the same level of attention and care,” Smolen said. “However, the pet industry, which is far less regulated when compared to the beauty industry, historically has been slow to evolve as evidenced by many products on the market that favor of cheaper, lower-quality ingredients without regard for a dog’s nutritional needs. WagWell is looking to help change the paradigm focusing on functional, high-quality ingredients that are effective at addressing the needs of our pups, while also simplifying the nutritional panel.”

WagWell’s Calming Chews.
WagWell’s Calming Chews.

To further this approach, the WagWell team works closely with veterinary nutritionists and food scientists to analyze ingredients for efficacy, function and safety.

“WagWell is the most innovative, coolest thing I’ve built,” Smolen said. “We are changing the way pet parents think about their dog’s wellness by putting our dogs’ needs first while innovating across product categories to build a trusted wellness brand.”

One of WagWell’s first products to catch attention in the space was its Ahiflower Omega Oil, which Smolen said is the sort of “gateway” for consumers to find the brand. The plant-based formula gives users a multitude of benefits for skin, gut and joint health, and provides an alternative of fish oil omega-3s, which have seen increased costs and fueled environmental concerns.

“WagWell recognized this alarming trend and resolved to make a change and disrupt the status quo,” Smolen told WWD. “WagWell is the first dog brand to introduce Ahiflower; already proven in the equine community, this sustainably farmed, plant-based oil is clinically proven to pack the same nutritional punch of omegas 3, 6 and 9 as salmon oil to improve dog’s skin, coat and joints.”

WagWell estimates that one bottle of its Ahiflower Omega Oil saves 600 fish from the sea.

WagWell’s freeze-dried dog treats.
WagWell’s freeze-dried dog treats.

The newest launch to come from WagWell is its fully cooked, freeze-dried treats, which come in beef and cheese varieties and are created in U.S. facilities. The single-ingredient treats are fully cooked using human-grade ingredients then freeze-dried to preserve their nutrients and flavor. The treats can be used as a food topper, reconstituted in water or as a healthy high-protein snack.

“We worked diligently to create a product that would follow our brand ethos of improving upon what already exists,” Smolen said. “We’re proud of what resulted, with our all-natural, minimally processed, human-grade treats free of fillers, corn, wheat and soy.”

As a six-month-old brand, Smolen told WWD that WagWell has been very thoughtful about partnerships, aligning with other like-minded brands and companies to foster a sense of trust with the consumer. As the company focuses on building its online community it has partnered with the popular @weratedogs account and the membership-based club Dog PPL in Santa Monica.

“WagWell is a new brand, and I intentionally did not launch with a celebrity. It’s a different game from beauty in that regard. What you’re feeding your pet is really important, the product has to work. It’s a space that traditionally favored licensing and some might refer to [supplements] as snake oil but there is value in it and it needs to be presented in the right context as part of a holistic approach.”

Smolen told WWD that the company has, however, partnered with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, starting in June. Smolen said Goop “leads the industry in our aligned values of wellness, innovation and intentional ingredients.”

WagWell treats will be available in select Goop retail locations in New York City, Los Angeles and Sag Harbor on Long Island. “We’re excited to be amongst only a select few other pet brands to have ever held space within their meticulous curation and look forward to a successful retail kickoff next month.”

Looking ahead, Smolen said that WagWell will continue to innovate and find new solutions in the pet space while building the company’s omnichannel strategy.

“I’m really taking my time with it,” Smolen said. “I want to make sure our customer is who we say it is and build that relationship appropriately. We’re seeing [retailers] respond to this but there’s a price difference too, these products are not inexpensive but we’re not trying to be luxury for the sake of being luxury. I love the word ‘masstige’ because it’s at an appropriate price point and gives effectiveness. We’re using high-quality ingredients and building a trusted brand — it’s affordable for the pet parent and easy to use.”

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