By Ben Wiese | Feb 14, 2022
Pet supplements and treats
As the owners, founders, and operators of Homescape Pets, a pet wellness brand, the Pfeifers proudly take this to the literal: Every supplement is routinely consumed, digested, and experienced firsthand for quality control.
Founded in 2018, the company manufactures all-natural, CBD-based pet supplements and single-ingredient chews, with the intention of providing pets with better, healthier lives. The supplements offer clean ingredients from botanical, mineral, and herbal sources without chemical additives, and the single-ingredient chews and treats have no added ingredients, preservatives, colors, or flavors.
And though human beings aren't the target audience, curiosity certainly won't kill a person, dog, or cat, in this instance. "Everything is human-grade," says Nana. "We're not specifically making pet supplements, we're making supplements that can be taken by pets. There's a bit of a difference in that we follow all of the criteria for the FDA, we just prefer that they be used by pets."
The Homescape Pets origin is tied to the Pfeifer's first dog, Beau, dying of cancer. They couldn't cure Beau of her cancer, but they could make her remaining life the best it possibly could be.
"We learned that a lot of the things that we were feeding [our dog] were specific to the pet industry," says Nana. "Those things didn't have to go through some of the same criteria or stringent requirements that human food goes through. So, our thought was, why would we not feed her real human food, real human supplements? What's the difference?"
Their research provided a peek behind the curtain of pet food, she adds, and it was an unpleasant revelation. "We started to learn the difference between pet products and human products, and we didn't like what we learned. So, we decided that when we started Homescape, we were only going to use human grade products; if humans can't take it, then our pets can't either."
The Pfeifers actively consulted trusted integrative veterinarians -- vets that use conventional and alternative therapies for treatment -- on how to create the desired change in the pet-care industry. This peek behind the curtain was quite promising: There were already safe, natural supplements available, they were just made with human beings in mind.
"I started going to any health store I could think of," says Nana. "From Sprouts to Natural Grocers to even GNC, I went to read up on what's inside supplements, what's inside an herbal powder versus what's inside an herbal capsule."
After rigorous testing and routine vet check-ins to ensure proper health and safety compliance, the great pet wellness supplement experiment was a verified success. "It was a cottage industry type of thing," says Nana. "When I found the cleanest, purest supplements and ingredients I could find, I started making supplements at home from human supplements and testing them out on our new dog and other friend's dogs. It became something we weren't expecting, and it grew from there."
Since 2018, Homescape Pets manufacturing has outgrown the Pfeifer's home kitchen and two commercial kitchens. In August 2020, the operation moved into PREP ATX Commmercial Kitchens in Austin -- the largest commercial kitchen facility in Texas -- with the hopes of partnering with a co-packer in 2023.
Raw meat chews continue to be procured from thoroughly vetted farms, and supplements are tested daily for quality control. Until recently, all manufacturing was done by hand by the Pfeifers -- mixing, bottling, labeling, packaging, and sealing.
"We've finally moved into our new facility, and we have brand new equipment we purchased in order to make our products in mass," says Nana. "We've got bottle fillers and mixers that allow us to mix our herbs and oils and fill our bottles by the hundreds and thousands, rather than continue doing them the way that we have been doing them, which is by hand."
Challenges: Finding a co-packer willing to use whole herbs, rather than extracts, has been an uphill battle. "We don't use any preservatives, our products are very limited ingredients, and that's been a concern for lots of co-packers," says Nana. "They don't use whole herbs because it can gunk up their equipment, and we don't use preservatives or heat to cook our products."
Additionally, finding the proper amount of manufacturing supplies continues to be difficult navigating at this point in time -- perhaps due to COVID-19 supply chain complications, perhaps due to the growing pains Homescape is experiencing, or both.
"We don't need tens of thousands of units prepared right now because we're so small," says Nana. "We're in the in-between phase of not being able to meet the order requirements, but still needing a co-packer nonetheless."
Opportunities: Yet even with these complications, there's plenty of excitement surrounding Homescape Pets and its future. "The last two years, because of COVID-19, we've all been a lot more focused on our health. I think that has, in turn, caused pet parents to be more focused on their pet's long-term health, as well," says Nana. "The growth we've had over the last two years has been incredible. We do see that here's an opportunity to continue educating pet parents on the benefits of natural wellness for long-term health. That's an incredible opportunity for us.
"In addition, now that we've got the equipment to ramp up our production, we have an opportunity to connect with local pet retailers who focus on customer education and natural products. Our ability to manufacture more is a huge opportunity for us."
Needs: Though the cannabis and CBD industries are in many ways blooming, the business-to-business industry resources still need to catch up, according to the Pfeifers. "We're all in on CBD," says Nana. "We didn't know, from the beginning, that it would be this much of a hassle, but we understand that the future is looking more like there's going to be understanding and acceptance of CBD. We wanted to learn it now so that we can be a part of it."
"But because we have two CBD products, our hands have been tied in a lot of ways," she adds. "Our industry -- CBD or cannabis -- needs more services, from baking to financing. We need more options when it comes to CBD and cannabis products."