George Bramble, founder of pet food brand Beco, explains why sustainability and the environment is at the very heart of his business.
Tell us about your business and the inspiration behind it?
I grew up surrounded by dogs and spent most of my childhood holidays outdoors in the Outer Hebrides. It was here that I really fell in love with the natural world and fostered an interest in learning more about the environment. At University, I studied Geography and Environmental Sciences and learned about the environmental pressures we’re facing both in terms of climate change and biodiversity. It became clear to me that I wanted to set up my own business, building a brand responsibly and doing business in a different way by ensuring looking after the environment was at the heart of everything we did. It was clear that the pet product manufacturers weren’t then considering sustainable practices and we decided we wanted Beco to be a one-stop-shop for the environmentally conscious pet owner.
In your opinion, why is it so important to produce eco-friendly pet products?
Climate change and its effects are putting humanity’s survival at risk, and the pet industry is a contributor to this bleak crisis we’ve got ourselves into
The good news though is it’s not too late to get our act together. Businesses everywhere need to re-evaluate their priorities and try to lower their environmental impact. Consumers and pet owners alike need to hold companies accountable. Thankfully, they are starting to do that.
How do you feel lockdown has impacted your business?
We have been lucky, and Beco has grown significantly over the past year. We put this down to two main factors: the huge boom in pet ownership over lockdown, combined with a massive shift to people caring more around the environment. People saw the positive effects of a massive reduction in road and air travel, they took time to look around and enjoy the nature around them, and people just largely stopped rushing about so much. All in all, what’s clear is that people care more now.
Why is sustainable sourcing so important to your business?
We believe it’s vital to source ingredients for Beco’s food from farms and fields close to home, which helps reduce our carbon emissions. We trust the farmers and can work with them to develop nutritious and delicious recipes for our pets.
But we don’t just stop at our ingredients – understanding where our materials come from is also hugely important to us. This incorporates everything from the packaging we use for our parcels, to the materials we make our products with. For example, our pet toys are made from recycled plastic (effectively from recycled drinks bottles). We learned that some suppliers would market plastic as “recycled” when it turns out it’s just off-cuts of virgin plastic from a factory, rather than plastic that is getting a second life after use. You need to dig deep!
What are the biggest environmental challenges facing companies like yours?
There is no silver bullet when it comes to the environment and especially when it comes to running a business and making products. Just by having dogs and running a business, we have an environmental impact.
When we started Beco we are acutely aware that we need to constantly strive to reduce our impact as much as possible. Always finding better materials, more innovative designs, to cater to our dog’s needs whilst limiting our impact on the environment.
One of our major challenges was finding suppliers and manufacturers who wanted to work with us. They didn’t want to deal with a company that was demanding high standards and asking probing questions about the provenance and quality of every single ingredient and material, and we had to work hard (literally going from door to door, often turning up unannounced), to prove we were a serious business, and that sustainable production was the future.
Why are these ethical issues so important to consumers nowadays as opposed to years or decades ago?
At Beco, we refer to it as “pre-Attenborough and post-Attenborough”. When Blue Planet first aired in 2017, Sir David did an incredible job highlighting the issues the planet faces in more of a compelling and easy to understand way than anyone had been able to do previously. Following Blue Planet, we saw a considerable pick-up in demand for the things we make.
Over the past four or five years, people have been becoming increasingly more aware of environmental and ethical issues, but it’s the younger consumers that seem to make it central to their buying decisions. 50%+ of new pet owners over the past year have been under the age of 35, and this has really contributed to our growth of 40% this year.
Do you have any new product plans which are new or innovative?
We have lots in the pipeline, but we are particularly excited to say we have a range of treats launching very soon, that are made with the environment in mind. The range contains both treats made from low levels of meat that has been ethically and locally sourced and ones that are totally plant-based. They will be found in compostable packaging and are delicious (my black Labrador, Tarka, has been thrilled with all the samples coming home with me each day!)