The Pack CEO Talks Crowdfunding Campaign, UK Government & the Challenges of Vegan Pet Food

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Damien Clarkson, co-founder and CEO of UK vegan dog food brand The Pack, explains why the company has launched a crowdfunding campaign, the lack of government support, and a possible move into cultivated meat.

On the heels of catapulting its vegan dog food onto Planet Organic shelves, London-based startup The Pack has initiated its latest fundraising effort in the form of a crowdfunding campaign.

Co-founders Judy Nadel and Damien Clarkson – the pair behind agrifood investment platform Vevolution – want to open up investment to pet parents who purchase The Pack’s plant-based dog food, as well as the wider public, outlining “the power of community to turn ideas into movements and bring about real social change”.

The B Corp-certified business – which launched Europe’s first oven-baked kibble for dogs last year – has kicked off early access to its crowdfunding round on Crowdcube. It comes against the backdrop of a 24% drop in investment in plant-based companies globally last year (reaching $908M). Things haven’t improved much this year, with startups in this sector attracting only $58M in the first quarter – that’s 6% of last year’s total, in a quarter of the time.

the pack crowdcube
Courtesy: The Pack

But Clarkson, who is The Pack’s CEO, says his company has grown steadily, and is now aiming for an expansion into other territories. In a wide-ranging interview, he explains the thinking behind choosing the crowdfunding path, and expresses support for a change of government in the upcoming UK election.

This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.

Green Queen: Why did you decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign now?

Damien Clarkson: Judy and I have always believed strongly in the power of communities to drive forward societal change. We built a huge community of people wanting to change the world with our first startup Vevolution. And now, with The Pack increasingly established in the market, it felt like the right time to bring the wider community of investors, not just high-net-worth individuals into the business.

Introducing more plants into our dogs’ everyday diets requires a societal cultural shift, and by having more advocates with a stake in the company, we believe we will be able to more quickly push plants up the feeding agenda for wider society.

GQ: Why go the crowdfunding route? How does the equity work?

DC: Crowdfunding enables us to grow with our customers and share our successes with them. Essentially, people can invest as little as £10 and own a slice of The Pack. The investment is managed through Crowdcube, which represents the interests of any investors who join this round with an investment under £20,000.

the pack dog food
Courtesy: The Pack/Green Queen

GQ: What’s your funding target, and what do you hope to use the capital for?

DC: We are yet to decide on the final funding target, but we are building The Pack to be a sustainable business. We’ve witnessed the tightening of the financial markets for all companies, not just those working on alternative proteins, and we are aiming to be profitable within 18 months. The capital will be used to launch our next NPD and open up exports into the EU market.

GQ: How has the sales and investment drop-off in plant-based meat affected the vegan pet food sector, if at all?

DC: The Pack has grown steadily year-on-year, and I know other companies in the space are growing too. The Pack is a company focused on healthy food for dogs. What I mean by that is that we have a high inclusion of superfoods, high levels of digestibility, and premium ingredients. We rigorously test our products to ensure they compete on taste and nutrition with meat.

Ultimately, there is an obesity crisis in dogs that is triggering the onset of other chronic health diseases. Our goal is to be a pet nutrition company working to solve that problem. It just so happens we do this through plant-based ingredients.

GQ: What is your take on the growing number of cultivated pet food innovations?

DC: It certainly is interesting for us in the UK with our market looking likely to become the first to regulate its sale within pet food. If cultivated products can further boost the taste of existing plant-based products, it could be a significant step forward in dogs eating a more plant-forward diet. We are having some interesting conversations in this area and will keep everyone updated.

vegan dog food
Courtesy: The Pack

GQ: What do you feel is the biggest obstacle of the plant-based pet food industry, and how can it be overcome?

DC: I think, like the human food space, we have been hampered by a slew of sub-standard products produced by some companies, meaning first-taste experiences of plant-based for many dog parents have been negative.

Retailers have been slow to adopt plant-based pet food, making it seem ‘other’ to the general consumer. When big retailers start to put plant-based pet food front and centre, it will get interesting as it will normalise dogs eating more plants.

The negative tailwinds of the plant-based investment pullback have made accessing capital for the vast majority of plant-based pet food startups more challenging. This is despite all the big pet food companies having a huge commitment to sustainability and a diversification of protein sources. Alt-protein pet food companies need to operate more like pet food businesses, and less like challenger plant-based startup brands.

GQ: How much capital have you raised so far? Can you share some details about your sales performance in the last year?

DC: Over four years, we have raised about £1M. Year to date, we are up about 39% on last year, and are on track for our best-ever financial year.

GQ: What would you say is The Pack’s USP, compared to other brands?

the pack vegan dog food
Courtesy: The Pack/Green Queen

DC: I think it is clear. We are the product innovators in the market. We were the first to create a stew-like consistency, replicating meaty flavours with our wet food range, and we have brought to market the first complete oven-baked kibble for dogs in Europe.

We are plastic-free, soya-free and specialise in premium superfood-laden products that put the health of the dogs first. We are certainly a brand very concerned with great-tasting products and top-level nutrition, and we are proud of that.

GQ: Have you felt supported by the government and its policies? What do you hope to see out of the election and its aftermath?

DC: Frankly, the UK government has withdrawn a lot of support for the startup ecosystem. I am hoping a Labour government will commit to innovating and funding the UK’s alternative protein sector.

GQ: What can we expect from The Pack for the rest of the year?

DC: On the completion of this funding round, we will look to expand gradually into the EU market, and we are cooking up a few exciting product innovations that should get tails wagging for release later in 2024.


  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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