How a Skittish Pandemic Puppy Inspired a Superfood Treat Brand
Botanical Bones founder Rachel Meyer believes food is medicine. Here, we chat about everything from sourcing adaptogens to sustainable packaging.
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In mid-2020, while many of us were coming up with bold takes on the “kitchen-sink meal” and nursing sourdough starters, Rachel Meyer was experimenting with homemade treats for her skittish new pandemic puppy.
The founder of Botanical Bones, a superfood dog treat brand based in Asheville, North Carolina, uses recipes with human-grade ingredients that promote immunity, calm, and overall wellbeing for dogs, no matter their needs. We spoke about sourcing quality ingredients, keeping up with a fast-growing brand, and the importance of community in all of it.
How did you first start Botanical Bones?
At the height of the pandemic, our family adopted our rescue puppy, Carnaby, and he was really anxious. We don’t know exactly what happened to him, but we think that there was a lot of trauma in the first couple months of his life. He was so nervous around people and other dogs, we could barely take him for a walk down the street.
I’m a big believer in food as medicine. I’ve struggled with anxiety and insomnia throughout my life, and superfoods and adaptogens (plants that have been found to help manage stress and maintain balance) supported me through those things. I had all of these powders and ingredients at home, and I thought maybe I could bake something for Carnaby to help with his anxiety, too.
I started playing around with recipes and came up with a cookie that our picky pup loved. This was when we were all stuck at home, and I was making more treats than Carnaby could eat, so I started giving them out to neighbors and friends. When I saw that other dogs loved them too, I thought I might be on to something.
I tried my luck in a local market, and it was one of those things where all the stars aligned. I honestly wasn’t expecting anyone to buy them, so when people did and were coming back for more, I decided to get serious about turning these treats into a business.
My background is in marketing and brand strategy, so I got right into everything that I needed to do on the packaging side, researching nutritional information, building the website…and it took on a life of its own from there. I always say that our brand was built on community; we learned everything through trial and error, and did so with the help of the people around us. That’s how we grew and how we’re still growing.
I know sustainability has been a core value for Botanical Bones from the start. Can you tell me what that looks like now that the products are available nationwide?
I always wanted the values of the brand to be very true to what I believe in. Early on, I kept thinking about how these products could be made in harmony with nature — just doing things the right way with intention. So I went a little crazy researching all of our options for packaging, making sure that we’re using high quality ingredients and that we’re being mindful of our sourcing. Especially with things like superfoods and adaptogens, the quality can make a huge difference in the efficacy and nutritional value.
From a packaging standpoint, it was honestly really upsetting to see how little there is out there, how behind the U.S. is in terms of compostable packaging, and how inaccessible the more sustainable options can be for smaller brands. I feel like we found the best option for our brand at this point, but I want to continue to innovate.
Can you share more about how and why you use the ingredients that you do in your treats?
We get a lot of our herbs and adaptogens from a company called Mountain Rose, which is one of the most reputable and respected in the herbalism community. It’s definitely more expensive, but that was a no-brainer for me. I think quality is of the utmost importance.
You can smell the difference when you open one of our bags. They smell like peanut butter and pumpkin and yummy herbs. I’ve tested herbs from other suppliers and could instantly notice the difference. And dogs of course have way more powerful noses, so you know they’re going to notice too!
What is exciting to you right now about the future of Botanical Bones?
We have some new products launching in the next couple of months that I’m really excited about. For me as an entrepreneur, innovating and product development is the super fun part.
We kept outgrowing kitchens, which is a good problem to have, but we struggled to keep up with demand. We’re moving into our own facility right now on this beautiful farm in North Carolina. It’s a shared kitchen with a vegan cheese business. We’ll be able to explore new blends and new products, so I’m super pumped. I have a team of three amazing women right now, and I’m looking forward to growing that, too.
OK, I need to come hang out on this dog treat and vegan cheese farm!
Oh yeah, it’s such a sweet, special community. There’s a food truck, and they hold events. Basically, everything comes back to the support of our local community. I’m so thankful.
The brand’s plant-based, protein-packed dog food and treats are sure to satisfy your pup’s appetite and your sustainability concerns.
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