​A chat with the founders of Gutsy — About starting up a brand with balls

Gutsy is a new player on the market. The fresh-on-the-scene dog food brand is here to change your dog's eating ritual. From the 16th of May your dog's bowl can be filled with the innovative Gutsy Munchies. Hybrid munchies with several surprising ingredients (yellow mealworm mixed with chicken, carrot, sweet potato, apple and cranberry). Founders Achilles Hannecart and Jack Lathouwers shook paws and an actual collaboration took place. Ready to dive into their story and find out how they went from a student project to a full-on start-up?

Hello Jack and Achilles! Who are you? Can you tell us a little more about your background and education?

Jack: I'm Jack, a 24 year old Antwerp-based animal lover. I graduated a Master in Business Engineering at the UGent with a specialization in Operations Management. This means being responsible for all the operational things that can come your way in a company. From logistics to maintaining contacts. Besides this, I am the proud owner of my dog Otis, my Golden Retriever. I love spending time with him. From a walk together, to a hiking trip, road tripping or camping in the great outdoors.

Achilles: I'm Achilles, 23 years old and just like Jack, I studied Master in Business Engineering at the UGent. I chose to specialize in finance. It may sound strange to some, but numbers genuinely make me happy. You could also describe me as an adventurous soul.

Where did the idea of starting Gutsy come from?

Jack: In a common class, we were assigned to each other by the professor to brainstorm about a startup. An assignment we immediately took very seriously. We had the craziest ideas, but we eventually agreed on our common passion: the love of dogs. We combined this with Achilles' sense of adventure and my passion for nature. After numerous investigations, it was clear to us that we wanted to continue and elaborate on this matter. There simply is an urgent need for change. People are already substituting their meat with all kinds of alternatives. Why couldn't we do that for Otis' food?

Achilles: Quite right, Jack. Keeping in mind a positive impact for dogs, their owners, and the planet: Gutsy was born! An atypical dog brand with guts. Gutsy is a lifestyle and a way of relating to your dog and the planet. To do so, we are always looking for innovative ways so that the 'dog of today and tomorrow' can enjoy a whole new experience. The first product that we launched are our Gutsy Munchies. We also asked 800 Belgians what they thought of insect-based dog food. Here, we discovered a new opportunity within the industry: a hybrid kibble.

What is a "hybrid" dog kibble?

Achilles: We’ve developed hybrid dog food, better known as our innovative combination of chicken and insects. Together with experts, we researched the possibilities to develop a balanced meal that offers your dog all necessary minerals and proteins. The combination of chicken and insects is easily digestible and ensures your dog gets all the substances he needs to be healthy. Its also easy to digest (hence our nod to Guts-y).

Jack: Choosing the hybrid combination is not only a very healthy choice for your dog but its also a sustainable dog food solution. Every year, the meat industry emits 150.000.000 tons of C02 (=85 million flights from Brussels to New York). Also 4.3 million Olympic swimming pools of water are used and up to 16x the size of Belgium for all these animals to have a place. Hybrid food came just in time since the ecological footprint of chickens and insects is significantly lower!

We've heard that you have a very special test panel: Otis. Can you tell us a little more about the way it works exactly?

Jack: Otis is my dog, but besides this, he plays a very important role within Gutsy. Otis is our CTO, Chief Tasting Officer. When launching Gutsy products, we always let him try them first. The Gutsy Munchies were tested and approved by my faithful four-legged friend. If he's not happily wagging his tail, we know the product isn't ready for sale.

Achilles: Of course our kibble is also tested by experts. That's how we know we've got a healthy and tasty meal for your dearest dog.

You share a common love of dogs. Besides sustainable dogfood, does this manifest in other ways as well?

Achilles: We have a Gutsy Strava channel, our Gutsy Pack, where we want to build an entire community to inspire dogs and their owners to explore the world by focusing on a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Through our Strava channel, you can participate in #GutsyWOW (Gutsy Walk Of the Week) where we invite you to be part of our adventure. Each week, one walk or run is highlighted and mentioned on the Gutsy Instagram every Friday. We encourage everyone to take part in the challenge and share your result in the Strava app. Do you often have a nice walk/run with your dog and want to share it with the rest? Join the Gutsy pack and get a chance to win a fantastic treat.

Jack: That's right Achilles. I would also like to add that we’re continuously looking for ways to inspire dogs and their owners, in all possible ways that fit the Gutsy lifestyle. That’s why, we are a partner of the first Dogtrail in Antwerp. This will take place on May 15 in the park of Brasschaat. Click here for more info about the Dogtrail.

As a final question. Can we get a little sneak peek of your future plans ? Any fun plans ahead?

Jack: Besides our Gutsy Munchies, we’ve also launched Gutsy toys to take with you on an adventure. I'm not going to reveal too much yet, but the Gutsy lifestyle will soon involve a lot more. For example we are working on a crunchy Gutsy snack to take along on adventures. But as I said, very soon more on that…

— pre-order their kibbles now on gutsy.dog

For PR enquiries, you can contact our colleague Femke via femke@marnixandally.com