It’s been an amazing journey for Alice Needham and Philip Chaplin, Founders of Wagalot, the Melbourne based business, which considers itself as pioneers in the pet treat industry.
The pair, who originally ran a beachside bakery (for humans) in Brighton, decided in 2010 to convert the store into Diamond Dog Food & Bakery, after noticing a huge increase in the numbers of dogs in the area that were accompanying their humans to the local cafes as part of their daily ritual.
“We realised that there needed to be something for the dogs as well,” explains Needham, so they set about teaching themselves all that they needed to know about making the most fun, cute treats for dogs. These included the Birthday in a Box, the DIY cakes kits for dogs, which have been the most successful product for Wagalot to date.
These days, Wagalot operates under a B2B model (with no direct sales to consumers) and manufactures a niche range of pet treats, which they call ‘Celebration Treats’, including DIY doggy cake kits and fun food boxes.
From 2010 until now, the business has achieved organic growth of around 15 per cent year on year, and due to increases in production, has had to relocate to larger factories three times.
“We realised early on that having one retail premises limited the number of dogs and owners that we could reach so we decided to start wholesaling our products,” says Needham. “Back in 2013, we got a break supplying seasonal products (Howl-o-ween and Christmas) to one of the major pet store groups and we have been supplying their Christmas products ever since.
“This required relocation to a larger premises, so we took the leap and moved to a factory in Seaford. We are now on our third factory – each move increasing our production capacity by more than 50 per cent.”
Today, Wagalot is ranged in more than 600 stores around Australia (including online stores). A majority of these are pet stores, but the business is also starting to break ground in independent grocery and convenience stores.
Recently, Wagalot introduced a new product range specifically for the convenience channel called Must Love Dogs – a range of snack sized packs of coated and uncoated biscuits, which are currently being trialled in 47 convenience stores in NSW and Queensland. According to Needham, initial sales are proving very positive and there are plans for a wider roll-out later this year.
Wanting to also be able to give back to animals in need, the business has established the Wagalot Animal Welfare Fund.
“We know that all our amazing customers are passionate about their own animals, and we also know that this extends to all animals.
“We have established the Wagalot Animal Welfare Fund as a Charitable Fund Account of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. We donate to the fund as a company, through sales of specific products and as individuals – everybody at Wagalot donates weekly from their pay. The Foundation then makes grants to eligible charities working on animal welfare.
“We encourage our suppliers and customers to contribute as well. Even a couple of dollars added to a purchase can quickly add up.”