Despite Hong Kongers' bustling, busy schedules, there's something so heartwarming about how canines can bring a community together and bring that much-needed, unbeatable pet love between the obligatory nine-to-fives. But the city has a darker side, where owners abandon their animals which are later found (alive, in the best case scenario) by rescue shelters, who take it into their hands to find the stray a new home. These loving shelters are behind the re-homing of animals to trustworthy new owners and take every step necessary to support the rescues. There are different ways to help out as a member of the public, from volunteering for dog walks and foster care to donations and fundraisers. At Buddy Bites, founders Chris Lee and Ryan Black wanted to find a way to support these animal organisations by donating 1kg of dog food for every 2kg delivered. Buddy Bites is a direct-to-consumer, subscription-based dog food start-up based in Hong Kong. The friend-duo started their journey with Catherine's Puppies, where Chris adopted his two pups Nacho and Nala, and have since added Hong Kong Dog Rescue to their regular roster (donating 900kg of dog food in September alone). We speak to Chris and Ryan on their recent charitable collaborations, how Buddy Bites came to life and, well, why pooches (and all pets for that matter) can bring such joy to everyday life.
Could you tell us about yourself and how you started Buddy Bites?
Ryan: What has made building Buddy Bites a lot of fun is that Chris and I were friends long before we started the business. We had both been in Hong Kong for just over 7 years, although Chris had a short hiatus, and felt the direct-to-consumer business model that is so common elsewhere in the world was yet to be used effectively in Hong Kong. Following a visit to Chris’ place out in Clearwater Bay, we got talking about the 20kg of Dog Food he had been lugging up his stairs for Nacho and Nala, and as to how inconvenient the current process of buying dog food was, alongside the inability to guarantee quality.
From there, we got to work researching and swiftly felt there was a lot of room for a high-quality, convenient, subscription-based offerings in the pet food space in Hong Kong. We then went to Catherine’s Puppies (who have been nothing short of incredible), with the giving back idea, and it sort of snowballed from there.
You've worked with several animal organisations in Hong Kong including HKDR and Catherine's Puppies – an admirable initiative to say the least! What else can fellow dog lovers in Hong Kong do to support these charities?
Chris: We are proud to support the dog shelters in Hong Kong, as well as be able to offer a platform where our customers can support them too, simply through buying dog food! But there are so many ways that dog lovers can offer their support even more. Yes, financial donations will always be appreciated, as the vet bills and upkeep and management of the shelters are never ending! But, donations aside, the shelters are always in need of foster families or volunteers to help out at the shelters, take the pups for walks, etc. The best way to see how you can help is to reach out to them directly – they will welcome the support.
What's a common misconception about animals in Hong Kong?
Chris: I think there is a stigma around the 'Hong Kong specials', or mongrels, that they are aggressive and that puts some families off adopting them. As an adopter of two 'specials' from Catherine's Puppies, I don't agree with this stigma at all. All dogs need training, and this is the responsibility of the owner to do so. My two are by no means perfect and we use a trainer currently, but they are loving and playful, just like any other breed. A lot of these pups just need to be given that chance and they can be a wonderful addition to a family.
Can you tell us about your products? What are the most delicious/bestselling recipes?
Ryan: We have been hugely fortunate to have the support of the Petsontapp vets as consultants throughout the creation of Buddy Bites to ensure we curated high quality products that were suitable for Hong Kong dogs. We started with a puppy recipe that utilised a wide base of proteins to benefit the growth stages, as well as a duck-based adult recipe targeted to be great for picky eaters, and dogs with sensitive stomachs. We did however know that we would need to add some further recipes to ensure all dogs get the chance to try Buddy Bites, and as of a few weeks ago, we have launched our second adult (lamb based) formula, as poultry is the most common allergy for dogs in Hong Kong. On top of this, it has a chunkier kibble size, which is great for supporting dental care. We have a few more recipes and extras up our sleeve, that will be coming to market in the near future!
What's something you love about dogs and how is this reflected in Buddy Bites?
Chris: We believe that everything about having a dog should be fun. We want to provide the very best food for our dogs and we want to bring an element of fun to the process too. There are so many products available to us as consumers these days via convenient subscriptions or at the touch of a button...but the way we buy our dog food in Hong Kong seems to be completely outdated. Why shouldn't it be more fun, convenient and interactive?! We feel that the convenience of delivery to your door and the little personalised touches really do make our customers smile. We can see that from all the photos they share on our Instagram! We love seeing the unboxing videos and families making a fuss over their pups...at something as simple as their food arriving...wagging tails, that's what it's all about!
How can a new customer make an order with you / what is the process?
Ryan: Convenience has always been one of the core focuses, so we aspire to make the order process as simple as possible. Head to our website and let us know how much food you need, how often you need it, and we will deliver to your door accordingly. Before any renewal, we will drop you a note in case you want to edit, pause or cancel your order. We want to ensure that nobody feels locked into anything. We also provide a discount month one to try and make it a little easier to test out. If you have any trouble though, we really do pride ourselves on our customer service, so just drop us an email or a message on Instagram and we will be happy to answer any questions… do expect some dog puns though.