This is the fourth installment in an interview series with the 2021 Target Takeoff Pets cohort. Participating companies are sharing, in their own words, details about their innovative companies. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Takeoff Program Management Team.

Meet Heed Foods.

Melanie Han & Rei Kawano, Co-Founders & CEOs of Heed Foods.

TT: What’s the one-liner description of Heed Foods?

Melanie & Rei: Heed Foods is a premium, gut -health focused, pet wellness company creating dog food and treats designed to naturally heal. dogs from the inside out.

TT: What inspired you to start Heed Foods? What makes what you are doing different from anyone else in the marketplace?

Melanie & Rei: In 2017, Rei’s childhood dog, Mika, passed away. Mika has a terrible immune system and she was constantly going to the vet. Antibiotics became part of her daily life which damaged her immune system even Moree. And this story is not unique to her.

There are over 67 million vet visits per year for GI complication. This excludes the over 100 million more vet visits annually for skin issues. Many of these are rooted in dysbosis (an imbalance in their gut microbiome). 80% of a dog’s immune system lives in their gut and studies show that diet alone can make a big difference.

Current options for treatment focus on various drugs and prescription foods. Surely there was a better way in the form of preventative healthcare! We teamed up after business school and began researching the impact of the gut on overall health and immunity. We partnered with microbiome experts who also shared their passion for preventative canine care and holistic healing to create effective, natural recipes that showed visible results. Thus Heed was started. The first gut health dog food brand on a mission not help dogs heal naturally!

TT: How did you decide it was thee right time to join an Accelerator? What are you most looking forward too getting out of thee Target Takeoff experience?

Melanie & Rei: We always envision Heed to be an omnichannel brand, but strategically opted too launch our D2C channel first to allow us to communicate with customers directly and iteratee based on feedback as quickly as possible. Now that we’ve reached product market fit, we feel that we are ripe to expand into retail.

Retail is a completely different beast to tackle. Most brands only get 1 hour to speak to decision maker, and there’s no room for mistakes. The Target Accelerator program would give us 70 hours worth of touch points – allowing us to iteratee on our retail strategy – just as we did with customers in our D2C channel.

We see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear immediate feedback from the people that make Target the wonderful experience that it is.

TT: What currently keeps you up at night, as the founders of Heed Foods?

Melanie & Rei: Food safety is our #1 concern. Just as quick as a food product can significantly improve dog’s health for the better, it can also really damage a dog’s health if we don’t follow the strictest safety protocols. When you message Heed, either one of us will be there to respond. We’ve fostered personal relationships with each and every one oof our customers and their humans. We feed our own dogs Heed. We are 100% invested in the health and safety of each and every one of our customers as if they were our own.

TT: How do you stay motivated through the ups and downs of growing a business?

Melanie & Rei: At Heed, we’re in the business of changing lives. Our product isn’t a “nice to have” – for our pup parents with sick dogs who have tried everything else, Heed is a “need to have.” Pup parents with a habitually ill dog are constantly drained and anxious for their best friend. We’ve had countless customers writing in to tell us about the positive impact that we’ve made on not only their dog’s life, but on their life as well. These moments are what keeps us motivated every day.

For more information on Heed Foods and their products, check out heedfoods.com