Skip to main content

Are you thinking about starting a pet food business?  With pet ownership growing and demand for pet food increasing, the pet food industry is thriving, albeit facing many challenges with respect to sustainability. J.F. Herve, founder and CEO of Bernie’s Pet Food, a Pet Sustainability Accredited company, has some insights about when and how to build a sustainable pet food business.

bernie's pure velvet

Bernie’s Pure Velvet, the first product from the pet food startup.

Designing Your Petfood Startup Business For Sustainability

About 80% of the ecological impacts of a product are determined during its design phase. Similarly, when launching your pet food business, your operations’ environmental and societal effects are strongly determined by your initial business model. In short, you can make or break the ease in which you integrate sustainability – and the overall success of your mission – into your business in the early days.

“It would be a major mistake to  pursue sustainability later on the
development of the brand. It would mean sustainability is not a priority…  Well, sustainability is THE priority. – J.F Herve.


J.F. Herve, founder and CEO of Bernie’s Pet Food, realizes the importance of planning in sustainability during the initial stages. With 23 years of experience in the pet food industry, Herve is rethinking business-as-usual with his startup, Bernie’s Pet Food, and ensuring environmental sustainability is built into his pet food company’s DNA. 


“I don’t think it is OK to continue building pet food operations or plants the same way we did until now, because we all know it is not sustainable.” – J.F. Herve.


Design operations to utilize clean electricity and minimize energy consumption

The retorting (canning) process to manufacture canned food is energy-intensive. Bernie’s will use steam (instead of the typical water) to power the retort autoclaves using technology patented by the company Lagarde. A boiler, running on electricity, produces that steam. Bernie’s has opted to run the boiler only with clean electricity instead of electricity made from fossil energy. Bernie’s also benefits by locating in a state (Washington, USA) that heavily invests in clean electric energy at a reasonable cost.

wind turbines

Wind energy is a renewable energy source that can support pet food production.

Plan out Pet Food Packaging Details

Bernie’s selected a packaging that showcases high quality and also minimizes the packaging’s environmental impact. “I went for a metal can but with less material used than the classical tin can,” Herve said. “The opening is made of an aluminum membrane that provides outstanding barrier protection. The technology is from AMCOR.” This decision means that Bernie’s will source one part of the packaging from Europe and the other part in the U.S. to minimize the impact from freight transportation. The used aluminum is also readily recycled in most markets.

 Further, Bernie’s will pursue a life cycle analysis of its packaging choices with the Pet Sustainability Coalition to dig deeper into how it can decrease its packaging’s environmental impact. 


Work with Suppliers that Respect Animal Welfare and Environmental Conservation 

Herve searched extensively for suppliers that think beyond the single-bottom line, and ensures they focus on harvesting kelp locally or have Marine Stewardship Council certification“The company I am working with is unique since they do not render fish on their boats like most other companies,” said Herve. “They freeze the entire fish for Bernies so that there is no waste of material or excessive use of energy.” 

fishing boats sustainable harvest

Fishing boats may process on board, or freeze the entire fish to minimize waste.

Most importantly, Bernie’s ingredients are sourced from companies that meet three pillars of environmental sustainability: Safety, Transparency, and Animal Welfare. Animal Welfare is a crucial pillar in Bernie’s ingredient sourcing since the meat product is fed to other animals.


“Bernie’s brand was developed to address several pet food areas that are not
today totally “clean”. I think we can do much more – and not in 5 or 10 years. We must act now. ‘That’s easy to say’ would be a predictable answer to that statement. So, instead of saying it, I am doing it. – J.F. Herve.

Build A Pet Food Brand With Pet Sustainability Accreditation

Herve also built sustainability accreditation into Bernie’s business model. The accreditation process helps guide Herve in attention to a range of sustainability metrics and drives continuous improvement.

Pet Sustainability Accreditation provides several benefits to the pet food startup:

  • 3rd party verification of sustainability claims,
  • marketing and brand awareness,
  • business development opportunities unique to accredited brands,
  • Pet Sustainability Coalition support for continuous improvement.

Creating a brand that will embraces values promoting sustainability
is truly a fantastic experience. It is a lot right now.. But it will
generate much more potential for the brand in the future. – J.F. Herve.

Interested in the Pet Sustainability Accreditation process? Check out all the Pet Sustainability Accredited companies.