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The Trader Joe’s of pet food

One couple promises to transform the way you shop for your pets.

Marco and Berenice Giannini, founders of Protein for Pets, say the world doesn't need another pet food, but we need a better way to shop for the foods that exist. Their concept: an affordable, all-natural, pet food store that's organized by protein type rather than brand.

Watch the Gianninis pitch their start-up to Angel Investor, Kelly Hoey, Dr. Katy Nelson, host of "The Pet Show with Doctor Katy," and Rebecca Kaden, partner at VC firm Maveron.

Will the panel throw them a bone, or send them to the doghouse? Watch the video to find out!

For Pet’s Sake

Giannini's passion for pet health began in 2003 when he launched his first company, Dogswell. The brand is now carried by Petco, PetSmart, Target and Safeway.

But Giannini and his wife took it a step further. They noticed that major pet food retailers categorized their products by brand rather than food type—the opposite of how humans shop for groceries. Protein for Pets, or P4P, aims to update that system. "When one goes to the grocery store, they don't shop the Nestle aisle or the PG aisle. They shop based on their needs and that of their family. Why should pet stores be any different?" asked Giannini.

P4P shelves its inventory by protein type, like poultry, meat and fish, as well as exotic foods. It carries 1,200 SKUs of premium dry, raw and wet foods. "None of our foods have corn, wheat, soy or animal by-product," he said.

The start-up also has a private label raw food in the works. The Gianninis told CNBC it is comparable in price to dry food, and "a whole heck of a lot better for your pet."

P4P prices its dry foods at less than $1 per pound, and up to $3.50 per pound for premium products. Large retailers typically charge at least $2 per pound. The start-up's upcoming raw food label will cost $3 a pound.

Dog enjoying treats at Protein for Pets.
Source: CNBC
Dog enjoying treats at Protein for Pets.

Raise the Ruff

During the Power Pitch, Hoey asked how Protein for Pets could fight the big dogs, like PetSmart and Petco.

"We're more efficient and convenient and are not a second stop shop like most other pet stores," Giannini said. He added that, "We have a small store format with a low overhead so we can have really inexpensive food that's a great quality product." Giannini claims that P4P's net profits will double PetSmart's.

Currently P4P products are only available at its brick-and-mortar stores, which prompted Kaden to ask about e-commerce plans.

Giannini answered that, "online might be part of our future, but right now we really are focused on connecting to the last mile to the consumer."

Since its launch last June, Protein for Pets has acquired $2.5 million in funding and it's looking to raise $2 million on Circle Up, an equity-based crowd-funding source. It has nine stores in California, four of which Giannini says are already profitable. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Protein for Pets has six full time employees and 25 part-time employees. The founders said they expect to expand to 104 stores on the West Coast within five years.

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