The story begins like that of so many growth companies before: Laura Strömberg and Pekka Siivonen-Uotila wanted to buy something that wasn’t yet available. Both were not only serial entrepreneurs, but also dog enthusiasts.
“Pekka called me in the summer of 2016 and said he doesn’t like feeding his dogs dry dog food shipped from abroad,” Strömberg recalls. “He asked me if I thought this had some business potential.”
Strömberg, with a background in academia, business, food and dog products, wasn’t difficult to convince. Both she and Siivonen-Uotila had started prioritising Finnish produce in their own diets a long time ago, and they were fully aware that they weren’t the only ones. It felt natural to want to do the same with pet food.
“The dog food business is pretty disastrous ecologically,” Strömberg explains. “The sacks travel immense distances, and you can’t be 100 per cent sure of the quality and cleanliness.”
Thus, the idea not only was in line with Strömberg’s personal values, but also made business sense.
“Regular food trends tend to move on to pet food with a few years’ delay. We figured the time is finally right for Dagsmark Petfood.”
All ingredients for a reason
Right after the first phone call, Strömberg and Siivonen-Uotila started to build a team. The five-strong group of founders boasts a multi-disciplinary background: one knew everything about the food business, another was an expert in market research and so on.
The first recipe was developed whilst looking for funding for setting up a factory. The first production unit was built in the village of Dagsmark, by converting a machine that used to make cheese puffs.
“We had all done all sorts of things in life, but dry dog food never,” Strömberg tells laughingly. “It was hit and miss, trial and error in the beginning.”
In August 2017, the first Dagsmark Petfood variety, Dagsmark Häme, hit the shelves in Finnish supermarkets all around the country. The name, referring to a region in Finland, is a clear indicator of the origin of the ingredients.
It was clear from the word go that the brand won’t be a specialist store exclusive. Both Strömberg and Siivonen-Uotila deem it important that people can shop for their pets whilst getting their regular groceries.
“When the product is available through big, national chains, it automatically means large volumes and thus the price can be moderate.”
The price tag isn’t the only thing kept small. Strömberg says that the list of ingredients is deliberately kept as short as possible.
“We only use food items that are of high enough quality for human consumption. Everything comes from nearby, and we make sure that all ingredients are on the list for a reason, so that they’re not just fancy names but actually carry nutritional value.”
Conquering the world with cleanliness
In Finland, being local produce is a strong selling point for Dagsmark Petfood. However, the founders, as well as investors, believe in the brand’s international appeal.
“Even in Finland, authorities have been delighted that because our product is fully Finnish, it must comply with Finnish regulations,” Strömberg notes. “As Finnish food is world-famous for its purity and high quality, it can be trusted elsewhere too.”
First, Dagsmark Petfood will test the waters in neighbouring Russia and Estonia. Other countries might follow suit, as a result of the company either exporting its products or setting up factories abroad.
“That might be a far-fetched thought, but it’s too interesting for us not to at least look into it,” Strömberg says.
In the nearer future, the selection of dry foods and treats will expand. A new top-notch factory will start production later this year, which is good news for the global market, too.
“For internationalisation, production capacity might form a bit of a bottleneck. Soon, that won’t be a problem.”