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    HOPE Pet Food

    Sustainable High Protein Insect-Based Treats for Dogs

  • HOPE Pet Food, a women-led Canadian startup founded in January 2020 by Dr. Sofia Bonilla and Kasey Dunn,recently announced that the pandemic did not top them from creating over 300,000 hypoallergenic, ecofriendly bug treats for a smaller pawprint. Ian Healey called to find out more.

    What is the background to the company? Based in Mississauga Ont. in Canada, HOPE Pet Food is meeting environmental and nutritional needs of dogs by leaving meat and fish behind. HOPE Food uses responsibly sourced ingredients in Canada that include insects, algae and fungi.

    “We are proud to be leaders in sustainable insect-based pet food. More action needs to take place if we want a better future and the pandemic is not going to stop us,” said Kasey Dunn, co-founder of HOPE Pet Food. „We started working with dogs, since we know dogs and understand their needs. Cats are more challenging from both a technology and a marketing perspective, but we have plenty of ideas and potential.“

    “We love plants and there is no doubt eating more of them and less animal products is better, but plants cannot provide all the nutrients pets need,” says
    co-founder and CEO Dr. Sofia Bonilla, who has a PhD from the University of Toronto in bioprocess engineering with expertise in proteins. “On the other hand, it is pretty clear that we cannot continue livestock and fish farming as it is today, so why should we settle with meat-based or plant-based products, when there is so much more like insect protein or algae oils?”

    The meat-alternative human food realm is exploding. However, innovation in the pet food space has lagged. With 25-30 per cent of meat produced in North America going to pet food, this is leaving a big environmental pawprint. Insects can play a key role in reducing the impact our pets have on the planet. Not only do they require less resources, but they eat preconsumer food waste – an environmental win-win! Compared to meat-based pet food, HOPE Pet Food products produce 70 per cent less greenhouse gasses and use 90 per cent less water and land.

    HOPE Pet Food launched their first product October 2021, in the midst of the pandemic: Berry Buglicious dog treats. These ovenbaked biscuits are made in
    the GTA with insect protein, cranberries and maple syrup. They are a sustainable, hypoallergenic alternative that is yummy and nutritious.

    What is the most important thing in pet food nutrtion?

    „At HOPE we want to bring science back to pet food. We want to rebuild trust to the consumers through education. It is tempting to offer our pets huge amounts of proteins, which are not realy necessary. This can cause obesity, which is obviously not good for the dogs. When I moved to the Netherlands to explore the potential of alternative proteins from algae, the more I learned about it, the more it became clear that we need to reimagine our food systems to be sustainable,” said Dr. Bonilla. “After doing research at the intersection of biology, environment and engineering for 15 years, I felt creating truly sustainable pet food was possible and if no one was doing it, then I should use my scientific background to have a positive impact.”

    Alex Camara, Pet Nutritionist with HOPE has an MSc. in Animal Nutrition from the University of Guelph, ONT, and brings ideas, formulations and new products to market. „The most important thing is to give our pets enough food, but not too much, and with the right balance of nutrition for the age and size of animal. We feel it is important to offer feedking recommendations on the pack of our products.“

    How have things changed in the last few years? „Dog food has changed. There has been a trend towards humanization. We feel the scientific option with pet nutrition can give the animals what they need,“ says Dr. Bonilla. „Even in the past two years I would also say the sustainable aspects have grown throughout the pet food industry.“

    Kasey Dunn: „Pets are not humans. They should be allowed to be the best animals they possibly can.“

    How can pet nutrition improve health or reduce disease? „It is important to feed animals the appropriate amounts. Lazy or older pets need fewer calories,“ according to Alex Camara. Dr. Bonilla added „The risk of contamination and inclusion of toxins is greatly reduced by using insects rather than fish or meat. There is a danger of factory farming getting out of control. Every batch we process at HOPE is thoroughly tested for pathogens and other problems. We work with a completely traceable supply chain.“

    What challenges do you have in the production and packaging of your food? Kasey Dunn: „We have been very fortunate with our suppliers and processors. It is good to work with regional companies who share our values. Equally in the packaging area we are always looking to improve our options, especially in recyclability.“

    What will the future bring for pet food and for HOPE? Sofia Bonilla: „We at HOPE believe that alternative proteins will be the future. These can be insects such as black soldier flies, but also algae or fungi. or a combination. We need to find the right balance of nutrients from different sources. We believe there is sufficient diversity to help us avoid synthetic supplements. Of course we are also on a learning curve, but we have a scientific basis to what we do.“

    „Right now more puppies than ever are being brought home due to the remote working conditions of the pandemic. More furry friends to feed means that
    sustainable options are more important than ever,“ continued Kasey Dunn. „HOPE Pet Food is on a mission to make highquality, environmentally sustainable pet food with the power of science, innovation, and kindness. People often ask if dogs like our treats? The proof is in the pudding, ask my dog. She will definitely let you know. There’s nothing weird about it, just bugs.”

    „The science also forms part of our series of blogs, which we offer to customers and pet parents all over Canada and beyond,“ concluded Alex Camara.

    Thanks for your time and inspiring comments. What would be a fair summary of HOPE Pet Food’s vision? Our vision is to make high-quality, sustainable pet food with the power of science, innovation, and kindness. All three are essential ingredients. Ask Jasper!


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