Lauren Ruggiero was on a health kick. She’d seen “one of those scary documentaries about food,” and she wanted to improve her diet. She’d replaced everything in her refrigerator. She’d rewritten her shopping list. But then she noticed her pets – Maui, a dog, and Miley, a cat – and she wondered: What are they eating?
“Our pets rely 100 percent on what we feed them,” says Ruggiero. “I looked at their food, and I couldn’t pronounce most of the ingredients. These are animals. They’re not meant to have a lot of that processed, refined food.”
This is how Ruggiero started Buppy Pets, a pet food startup based in Warren. Each package of Buppy Pets biscuits contains only four ingredients, easy-to-find foodstuffs like peanut butter and chicken broth. Since launching last year, Buppy Pets is now available in 13 stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and hunger for the all-natural product is growing.
The business was a surprising turn for Ruggiero, who used to work in TV news, teleprompting and field producing for Boston’s CBS and FOX affiliates. She later served as a communications manager for Alex & Ani. Ruggiero has long flourished in busy offices, and she might have continued in that vein. But one day, she was riding a bike with her husband David on the East Bay Bike Path and she stumbled into Hope & Main. Specifically, she stumbled into Lisa Raiola, the kitchen incubator’s founder and president, who offered to give her a tour.
“It was so serendipitous,” Ruggiero recalls. “People say, ‘You left your corporate job to make treats?’ But I walked into that kitchen – where I bake now – and I thought, ‘This is it.’”
Ruggiero has some help, including advice from her brother (a chef) and consultations from baker Joy Bloodworth. Her podiatrist-husband is also an avid supporter. At events, such as the Meet Your Maker Market where Buppy Pets debuted, Ruggiero has enlisted some brand ambassadors. But Buppy Pets is mostly a solo act. “I’m still doing 90 percent of it myself,” she says. “I love to cook. I have cooking in my blood.”
The best part of Buppy Pets is that they’re not just for pets: they’re just as edible for humans, and most people find the snacks temptingly tasty. “Customers have their favorites,” says Ruggiero. “And I have to ask them, ‘Is it your favorite, or your dog’s favorite?’”