WAG has had solid growth over the last 36 months but also projects further growth ahead.
During the COVID lockdown the number of orders the company took per week doubled. But at the same time individual order sizes grew.
If the average basket size was $A50 before COVID, the average is now about $A75.
“Dogs definitely got spoilt during COVID,” Goldman says.
The growth of the pet industry in Australia has meant interest from private equity groups with funds looking to acquire, roll up or take an interest in fast growing consumer pet companies which can steal shelf space from the multinational players like Mars and Nestle.
The global benchmark for making the most of the pet boom is the US based online seller of pet food, medicine, toys and clothes Chewy Inc.
Chewy, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange in June 2019, once had shares valued at $US30, they now go for about $US91 with a market capitalisation of $US37.6 billion.
Goldman’s approach with WAG has been successful in targeting the changing demographic of millennial dog owners who are concerned about how healthy and ecologically sound the products are.
Goldman says new dog owners during COVID seemed to be young office workers who had getting a dog on their “bucket list” and now had plenty of time to look after one at while home.
He also says sites like Facebook and Gumtree now made dogs more available than in the past.
“We have a lot of couples who take on a dog as a rite of passage prior to their first child … it is their first step to parenting.”
Goldman and his partner’s first child is due in March.
Farmers’ market sparks idea
Goldman says the company began as a simple “passion project” after he left university with a commerce degree in 2008 – just as the global financial crisis tightened job markets.
His moment of clarity came as he wandered around a farmers’ market in Los Angeles during a spot of travelling.
Goldman chatted to a stall owner who was selling natural treats like pig ears, pork bones and beef jerky.
“(They were) just packaged up very appealingly, like nothing I had seen in the market,” he says.
Goldman grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Caulfield with a Saint Bernard named Winnie, a Bernese Mountain dog named Bernie and a Samoyed named Simba. He was always conscious of what he fed them.
“I had this desire to start a natural treat company. I didn’t think anyone at that time 11 years ago was doing it very well. There was no clear category leader. I thought about it on a very micro level and I could get something up and going.”
On arriving home to Caulfield, he went to his local St Kilda butcher and bought all the dog treats on display. Goldman got a mate who was a graphic designer to design the package and he took it to the St Kilda farmers market.
He arrived at 5am and was sold out by 10am – he knew he was onto something. “I did that for 12 months, working multiple farmers’ markets.”
The next leap came when the owner of a chain of 11 pet stores approached him at St Kilda market and says they wanted to stock his goods.
“Literally overnight I got the opportunity to commercialise the business. What was a passion project turned into a full-fledged business.”
The next seismic shift happened in 2015, when national retailer Pet Stock approached to trial the goods.
“That was the big moment – that was when the penny dropped for us,” he explains.
“To get ranging into a national retailer … everything was enhanced. Our level of professionalism, our standards of work.”
The company now employs 35 people and is stocked across the other major national pet retailers.