Wild Earth Before Shark Tank
The pet food market is worth $115.50 billion, with $40.6 billion in the US alone. Dog food makes up almost half of that. However, most of the dog food sold on the market is meat-based. That is why Ryan Bethencourt came up with Wild Earth: a vegan dog food company specializing in developing tasteful protein-packed dog treats.
Ryan launched Wild Earth in 2017. He used his own biotech equipment to enhance koji, a fungus that usually grows on grains, with beets and sugars to develop unique flavors. Wild Earth’s koji-based treats are rich in umami flavors and nutritious, the perfect treat for a dog. Wild Earth ensures its products are eco-friendly and better for the environment than other dog food.
Ryan raised $4 million to develop his company and create a Proof of Concept for his dog treats and kibble. The company hasn’t gone out to market yet, so they didn’t have any sales before they appeared on Shark Tank. A lot of pet companies, however, see the potential in Wild Earth and what it can do to the pet food market.
Wild Earth on Shark Tank
Ryan Bethencourt appeared on season 10 of Shark Tank seeking $550,000 for 5% of his company. The valuation shocked the sharks, who became curious about the product. Ryan pitched his company, stating that most dog food is unhealthy for the environment and the dog. He stated there aren’t many vegan dog food companies, and Wild Earth was the only eco-friendly vegan dog food available. He claimed that koji, the secret ingredient in his dog food, is rich in protein, boosts the flavor, and contains the amino acids dogs require in their food.
Ryan fed some dogs the product to demonstrate it to the sharks. Kevin jabbed at the product claiming it was forcing dogs to become vegan. Ryan stated most vets agree that a meat-free diet is as healthy as a meat-based diet as long as there’s protein, which Wild Earth has. The sharks asked if they could try it, and Ryan gave each shark a product sample. Lori claimed it tasted like oatmeal.
The young entrepreneur stated that Wild Earth dog treats contain peanut butter and 10% koji. He said that 10% koji wasn’t enough for dogs as a treat, so the company developed a prototype kibble planned to launch early next year. Ryan said the dog treats would release in October. Daymond asked if the company had any sales; Ryan replied it didn’t have any sales yet and would launch commercially in October.
The sharks were surprised. Daymond stated that the $11 million valuation Ryan was asking for was too high for a product that hasn’t launched yet. Ryan said the company only did Research and Development, but the sharks claimed that wasn’t enough for the massive valuation.
Ryan told the sharks the company’s backstory. He bought biotech equipment from companies going bankrupt and built a lab using that equipment. That led him to co-found IndieBio, the largest biotech accelerator in the world. Ryan raised $2 million from Peter Thiel and Felicis Ventures. He claimed the company raised another $2 million from other sources, for a total of $4 million total raised for the company at a $7.5 million valuation. Ryan only owns 20% of the company at the time of his appearance on Shark Tank.
Ryan claims that there is no future food leader in the alternative protein space in the pet food market, so Wild Earth is meant to take that spot. He claimed he created his own strain of koji in his bioreactors which could be industrialized to scale; this allowed him to create clean protein sources for his products. Each pack of treats costs $6.50 to produce and sells for $12.99. Mark believed it was expensive. Ryan planned to sell a bag of dog kibbles for $40, claiming it was a premium product.
Kevin O’Leary stated that the products were too expensive, so most people wouldn’t be able to afford them. He said he wouldn’t invest in an $11 million valuation with no previous sales, so he was out.
Lori Greiner said she loved the concept and the effect it had on the environment, but $550,000 for 5% with no previous sales is too much, so she was out.
Matt Higgins said it was hard to focus on Ryan’s pitch because the valuation was too high for a company with no sales; he was trapped in a prison of an inflated valuation. He believed it wasn’t an investable concept, so he was out.
Daymond John said he had a company doing the same thing, and they have seen great success. But, he said, investing in a company with no sales and an $11 million valuation would be a slap in the face to Daymond’s company, so he was out.
Mark Cuban said he was okay with the valuation, but he wanted to ensure Ryan could get enough sales for his product. The young entrepreneur said his marketing plan is minimal and viral, so he would only be selling his products online. He said that his goal is to only focus on his two products and scale them as they become more successful.
Mark was interested and offered Ryan $550,000 for 10% of the company. He refused to negotiate, and after some hesitation, Ryan accepted Mark’s offer.
Ryan left the shark tank thrilled by his deal with Mark Cuban. He believed his company would break through the dog food market, and Mark was the perfect business partner to help him do so.
Wild Earth Now in 2023 – The After Shark Tank Update
Instead of the original deal they made, Mark Cuban’s investment firm joined others to invest $11 million in Wild Earth with a Series A valuation. When the episode aired, Wild Earth’s dog treats were available on Amazon. The company’s treats saw massive sales, and customers seemed to love them.
Wild Earth didn’t release the kibble until 2021. The kibbles received positive reviews on Amazon, with many customers claiming their dogs loved the product. Ryan announced that Wild Earth raised over $23 million from well-known investors. The company has shown growth of over 700% since 2020 and expects to see even more growth next year.
Ryan plans to use the money raised to develop cell-based meat that would revolutionize the pet food market. Mark Cuban commented, “Wild Earth is the leader in plant-based pet food.” Wild Earth received regulatory approval for its cell-based koji treats. The company announced the treats would come in three different flavors: Banana and cinnamon, strawberry and beet, and peanut butter.
In 2022, Wild Earth’s products became available in Walmart stores, which was a massive step for the company. Wild Earth saw great success as its products began selling in Walmart. In 2023, Wild Earth announced its annual revenue to be $21 million. With great success and over 700% growth in two years, Wild Earth is expected to be one of the leaders in plant-based pet food. The company will continue to grow and expand, revolutionizing the pet food industry. You can find more information and updates about Wild Earth on their website here.