Founder and co-owner Mika Wheelwright has grown the company from probiotics made to help the family dog live a better life to distribution across the U.S.
Americans are trying to eat healthier, and they tend to want to make sure their pets are eating healthy as well. "There's this idea of humanization: People want to humanize their dog," asserts Wheelwright. "So if they're eating gluten-free, their dog is going gluten-free, or dairy-free, or raw."
And as the probiotics craze (think kombucha, yogurt, and kimchi) grows, pet owners want to make sure their pets are eating probiotics, too.
"There are 54 million dog households and 78 million dogs in 2014 in the U.S.," Wheelwright says. Of those, roughly 10 percent are taking probiotics as of 2015. "It's a fast-paced market that's set to grow," she contends.
The Fidobiotics story starts with Pledge, a Golden Retriever adopted by Wheelwright's family the day after 9/11. Pledge had knee surgery about six years ago. Following the surgery and a round of antibiotics, Pledge had problems digesting food.
To help him get back to up to snuff, the family started giving him probiotics. He got better.
Realizing such products could benefit more pets, Wheelwright started studying the canine probiotic market in the early 2010s. "I wanted to product a probiotic with health benefits," says Wheelwright, noting that dogs scared by lightning and fireworks can get sick by being overly stressed out.
"I spent a lot of time researching the companion market and the probiotics." She says the industry was worth roughly $60 billion in the U.S. in 2015.
While Fidobiotics was still in the R&D phase, Pledge started having some issues her products were targeted to address. "We gave him Good Guts," Wheelwright says. It was the company's first product and is designed to help a canine's digestive system and is particularly helpful in older and younger dogs. When the Wheelwrights had to put Pledge down, they donated his body to the Utah State University's veterinary school where researchers were surprised to find that he had five types of cancer, she says.
Since launching, the company has expanded across the country. "We sell online and sell through Amazon," Wheelwright says. "We sell to quite a few pet boutiques -- who are our favorites."
The company launched in 420 PetCo stores earlier this year, she adds. "We just hit 1,000 stores as of September. We're growing."
Fidobiotics has partnered with a nearby manufacturer with more than 30 years of experience making probiotics. That's important because the company knows how to keep the probiotics alive. "Probiotics can die in heat and moisture, so understanding how to manufacture and produce them is key, along with formulation," Wheelwright explains.
Challenges: "When you start a business, you don't have economies of scale and you're stretching every role -- which is fun," Wheelwright says. There are also unique challenges in being able to sell in every state since each state has different requirements for pet food and supplements.
Opportunities: Wheelwright notes that only about 10 percent of 78 million dogs in the U.S. take probiotics, so there is plenty of room for growth. "We believe we can become leaders in the market by producing, strong efficacious products with quality and formulation," she says.
Needs: "Educating people in the market about probiotics," say Wheelwright.