Brand Break Down: Scratch

Updated: Mar 28

*This feature is not sponsored or paid for in any way by Scratch or any other invested party


If you're in Australia and are looking for a sustainable swap for your dog's current kibble, you may have heard of Scratch - a subscription dog food brand that promises nothing but great ingredients in their product with no retail mark-up. Their website calls the brand game changing and a lot of publications have said that they are indeed changing the pet food industry.

It's a big claim, but to be fair, Scratch is game-changing in many ways. Not only do they use mostly local, ethically sourced ingredients, but they are very transparent about their recipes, use recyclable packaging, and have a 100% money-back guarantee if your dog doesn't love it. They also operate on a subscription basis, meaning no retail mark-up, fresher food, and little to no dog food going to waste due to overproduction


And there's much to love even at first glance. You only need to look at the tons of positive reviews on their website, and not just from customers whose dogs are happy with the food. Even dog owners whose buddies didn't like Scratch sing praises about the company's customer service. Not to mention, their cute but straightforward marketing is refreshing and endearing to customers.


But is there a catch? We took a deep dive into everything Scratch, asked their team to tell us more about the company to find out. Luckily, co-founder Mike Halligan took the time to answer our questions. So, here's everything we know about Scratch.



OWNERSHIP

Scratch is not owned by a parent company. This means that Scratch is 100% independent. According to Mike, "Scratch is Doug Spiegelhauer and Mike Halligan, with some investors. Together, we own around 80% of Scratch, with equity reserved for our team (something they get with employment here) and some for our Australian investors."

Mike and Doug run Scratch and have all decision-making control. They have some small investors as well, three of which are also founders of B-Corp brands.



INGREDIENTS & RAW MATERIALS

This is an area where Scratch really shines. They lay their recipes out in full on their website, and they tell consumers why each ingredient is present in the recipe.

Scratch dog food kangaroo recipe
Scratch's kangaroo recipe page: hovering over an ingredient gives you information on why it's in their product

The ingredients for each recipe are also easy to find, both on their website and their packaging. Changelogs of every change they've ever made to their recipe are also published on their website.



SOURCING & PRODUCTION

When asked if their ingredients and/or raw materials are sustainably sourced or fair trade and if they are certified with any organisation, Mike tells us that in the pet industry, it's not as straightforward. There is no industry certification or supply chain created for sustainable purchasing. So, Scratch created its own standards and have published how they work with their suppliers on their website. Scratch uses 97% Australian, whole ingredients in their main turkey, lamb, and beef recipe, and around 85% in their single-protein kangaroo recipe.


The team at Scratch considers kangaroo the most sustainable meat in the world, however, like any industry, there are still some inhumane players operating within it. This is why they deal exclusively with the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia to ensure that they, through their suppliers, follow the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes and the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products. They also exclusively use kangaroos harvested in Queensland and New South Wales as these states have more robust management systems than the rest of Australia.


Scratch has a dedicated page on its website detailing how the company sources its kangaroo meat and the issues around sustainability and ethics in said sourcing. They also advocate for a better supply chain & more transparency across the industry and are 100% Aussie made.



PACKAGING & RECYCLING OPTIONS

Scratch ships their products in a box made with recycled cardboard, but because the contents are perishable, they still use a resealable plastic bag to hold the food inside the package.

This is because their first concern is that the food remains moisture-resistant so that it doesn't pose a mould hazard for their furry customers. However, every Scratch dog receives these recycling instructions to give to their humans:

Recycling instructions from Scratch sent via email

The recycled cardboard box is recyclable via your household recycling bin, while the plastic bag can be recycled at your local supermarket via RedCycle bins. Mike also tells us that although there have been some recent developments in sustainable packaging for products like theirs, they still aren't commercially available.


Scratch doesn't offer refilling options for customers at this time for food safety reasons. They are, however, working on a single-use packaging and local grocer refill model! No word on when that will be available but it will definitely a very welcome add-on service if and when it launches.


March 2021 Update: Scratch has redesigned its packaging. They have reduces the total packaging used per box by 4%, which they admit does not sound like a huge number, but with over 10,000 dogs on Scratch, this adds up. They have also announced that their next step is to introduce "an even more efficiently-sized box for orders not containing any extras" so that they can reduce waste and fit more packages in delivery vehicles meaning less trips and less trucks on the roads.



GIVING BACK & ADVOCACY

Scratch has been a member of 1% for the Planet since the beginning, meaning they donate 1% of their revenue towards environmental and social causes. Additionally, at the time of our correspondence (mid-August 2020), Mike tells us that they were on track to submit for their B-Corp certification "any week now."


They also supply free food to various rescue organisations around Australia and give their staff 5 paid volunteer days for them to use to lend a hand to local animal shelters and rescues.


UPDATE: Starting March 2021, all Scratch deliveries will be carbon neutral via an offsetting program. Scratch has chosen to work with Australian non-profit Greenfleet to help plant biodiverse Australian forests which draw carbon out of the atmosphere and into the soil. Initiatives like this also have the benefit of preserving wildlife habitats and improving soil and water quality.


Scratch has also launched their Impact Hub where they talk about their ethics, sustainability, and how they give back. It also includes information on the donations they make. Basically, the Impact Hub tells you what they set out to do, how they plan to do it, and the receipts to prove they actually did it.


We LOVE a brand that values transparency.



DIVERSITY & INCLUSIVITY

In this area, it all boils down to "not being a shit human" in both how they treat their customers and how they hire. I think customers and potential customers will be happy to hear that their team is 50% male and 50% female, with 25% identifying as a racial or ethnic minority. Mike also shares that their bias-free recruiting process is done by multiple people that assess an individual candidate based on "application questions and ability to perform (the) role without seeing (the applicant's) name, age, sex, experience, etc." Additionally, each role is advertised actively to often ignored areas to make their job openings more accessible to mothers, indigenous communities, those not active on social media, etc.


Overall, Scratch's ethics and sustainability credentials are pretty damn solid. From transparency to responsible sourcing and even their hiring practice, Scratch has clearly made an effort to not be shit humans, as they say, in all aspects of their business. Obviously, we can't expect things over at Scratch HQ and their partners or suppliers to be perfect, but clearly, they've made conscious decisions to make sure they're on the right track here. If you're in Australia and live in an area covered by their service, we highly suggest giving them a shot!


Scratch is available in Australia - in most places in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia.



UDPATE LOG: This post was originally published in October 2020 and was last updated in March 2021.