Plant-Based Dog Treats Smell (and Taste?) Like Real Meat

Company plants a tree for each bag sold.

dog and puppy with plant-based treats

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Made with ingredients like chickpea flour, brown rice, and sweet potato, plant-based dog treats might not be every dog’s dream. But the vegan treats have an alluring appeal: They smell like meat.

There are three flavors of treats from Bright Planet Pet, a woman-owned business where the products are made in Minnesota. Made with sustainable ingredients, the chewy chunks mimic burger, BBQ chicken, and brat flavors.

That might get the attention of the pups, but the hope is that owners will be drawn to the environmental impact of the treats. Plant-based products create fewer carbon emissions and use less water than meat-based pet treats. The company also plants a tree for each bag sold.

Founder and CEO Katherine Ellison talked to Treehugger about the motivation behind the plant-based recipes and how she hopes people will reward their pups while being mindful stewards of the planet.

Treehugger: What is the background of your company? What made you interested in making dog treats?

Katherine Ellison: I've worked in the pet food industry for 14 years and have always had a strong interest in watching trends. We see human food trends come into the pet space in 3-5 years, so when plant-based meat started to trend upwards for humans, I knew it wouldn't be long until we saw similar products in the pet aisles. I started Bright Planet in 2020 and we were the first company to launch plant-based treats that taste like meat for dogs. Today, we're the leader in meat-emulate products and we are growing as more pet parents are looking for sustainable and delicious treats for their dogs. Treats were a great first step for us because any dog on any diet can benefit. 

Why did you focus on plant-based recipes? 

American dogs and cats eat so much meat that if they were a country, they would rank 5th in terms of worldwide meat consumption. What food our pets eat has a global impact and if we can reduce how much meat they eat, we can help reduce climate change and make the earth healthier. For Bright Planet, it's all about making our dogs happier and healthier while being mindful stewards of the earth.

What are the ways these products benefit the environment? 

Our treats are made with sustainable, all-natural plant-based ingredients that create fewer carbon emissions, and use less water, energy, and land than comparable meat-based treats. In fact, our treats create up to 90% less carbon emissions and use up to 68% less water than leading meat-based treats. We also make our treats locally in Minnesota to reduce transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions, and we are transitioning to recyclable packaging this summer. Sustainability is top of mind for us and we're always looking for ways to become more eco-conscious both in our products, the way we do business, and who we partner with. 

Why did you choose to plant a tree with each bag? Do you know how many you’ve planted so far? 

We wanted to support a cause that we felt would be impactful and also help us drive home our mission. Our mission is to help combat climate change by introducing pet parents to plant-based treats. Planting trees was a natural fit for our brand. It's a physical act that helps the earth and our customers really resonate with the cause. So far, we've helped plant nearly 30,000 trees and we're on track to plant 60,000 trees by the end of this year.

Who buys the treats? Are they people who are vegan, who want eco-friendly treats, or also those looking for a new treat to try?

Most of our customers are seeking out more sustainable options for their dogs, just like they do for themselves. Many Bright Planet pet parents consider themselves reducetarians or vegetarians and they want to feed their dogs according to their own values. We also find that dogs with food allergies really love our treats, they can finally eat something that tastes like chicken or beef, but without the real meat protein that causes them problems. Our treats are great for dogs who eat a variety of diets and certainly vegan pet parents also really love the product. 

What kind of feedback have you had so far? 

We've received really positive feedback! At the end of the day, the dogs' opinions are the most important, and time and time again we hear from pet parents that their dogs are obsessed with our treats. Nothing makes us happier than hearing that dogs are loving our tasty treats. The beautiful thing is that the dogs don't know that they aren't eating meat! Pet parents love that our treats are sustainable and that they are supporting a woman-owned business. 

Do you plan to expand to other products/flavors?  

Yes! We are launching a Better Bac'n flavor, training treats, and value packs in August. We're working on a few development products including biscuits, chews, and even cat treats. Our goal is to create plant-based solutions for any type of meat-based treat or chew. We'll always stay true to our signature Bright Planet taste, smell, and experience which leaves dogs begging for more, all while being better for the planet.

View Article Sources
  1. Okin, Gregory. "Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats." PLoS ONE, vol. 12, no. 8. 2 Aug. 2017. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181301