3 lessons in new product development from a founder trying to reinvent dog food

Jim Galovski wanted to change the pet food industry when he founded Needham, Massachusetts-based Guardian Pet Foods in 2017. More than four years later, he took a major step toward that goal: in December , Galovski received a patent for his “compact nutrient-dense freezer-dried pet food product.” Essentially an energy bar for dogs, the NOBL Canine Food Bar uses freeze-dried, unprocessed ingredients to provide more energy and nutrients than kibble pellets, traditional processed dog food. Here’s how Galovski, a 26-year veteran in the pet food industry, took advantage of the long patent filing deadline to position the company for a successful product launch.

1. Educate your audience

During the application process, Galovski found that patent officials initially failed to understand the differences between his company’s product and kibble. This showed him that he also needed to educate consumers about the health benefits of the Guardian Pet Foods bar. His team launched a campaign including news articles, blogs and interviews on their website and social media feeds focused on the innovation of their freeze-dried bar technique. The company also faced the misconception that “energy bar” meant snack. Its marketing strategy had to show dog owners that the product was a complete meal. “It’s the future of pet food,” says Galovski. “We had to continue.”

2. Admit what you don’t know

As a small business owner, you often feel the pressure to remove any obstacles. Galovsky’s advice? “You can’t be an expert in everything as a founder.” Throughout his research and patent filing phases, he put his team in contact with people who needed expertise. During product development, for example, they worked with a member of the American College of Nutrition who is also a board-certified professional animal scientist. Galovski also hired a patent attorney to, among other duties, explain the intricacies of the application process.

3. Listen to consumer testimonials

Galovski owns two dogs, which makes the product’s mission a personal mission. He spent time listening to customer stories to validate the impact the product could have, responding to emails and phone calls about how they were using the bar to help their dogs lose weight, eliminate behavior and eating problems despite illness. These conversations motivated him to persevere and empathize with his audience. “It’s not just about getting a patent,” says Galovski. “It’s also about trying to do something good. Use it as your true north.”

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