Amanda Rolat Bramble Dog Food

Amanda Rolat of Bramble | Founder Spotlight

Like many incredible brands, Bramble was born out of its founder turning inward after a significant life event. Amanda Rolat had lost her dog, Harry, to cancer very suddenly. While she was in the animal hospital with Harry, Amanda began researching how to feed a dog with cancer; and the first thing she learned is how important it is to give the dog whole food, home-cooked meals.

While Harry ultimately passed before she could start transitioning his diet, she continued to dig deeper; and this journey ultimately culminated in Amanda’s founding of Bramble – a fresh, unprocessed, and plant-based dog food packed with protein and superfoods.

Prior to starting Bramble, Amanda had a career as a lawyer. And while she hadn’t started a company before, her career pivot wasn’t the total 180° it may sound like. Amanda had spent a decade working on criminal justice reform and wrongful convictions; but in both careers she found deep meaning in standing up for innocent lives and, ultimately, fighting for justice. 

After Harry passed, Amanda was left with two other dogs – Bryn and McGruff – and started seriously asking herself, why is it that when dogs have cancer that home-cooked, whole food meals are more beneficial? And, to that end, what is it about kibble and processed dog food that is detrimental – or even a cancer accelerator – for dogs?

“In my own diet, I had already eliminated processed food and ate very clean. I had initially started eating ethical meat – being so animal welfare-driven – but the more I learned, the more plant-based I went. Everything I knew to be true with my own diet of: don’t fall for marketing, read the ingredients, etcetera…I wasn’t feeding my own dogs in this way, and felt a certain guilt associated with that.” 

So, she started feeding her other two dogs – Bryn and McGruff – a very non-processed diet. 

“Dry dog food was out, but at the time it was still very early days of these fresh dog food companies, and having recently learned that the pet food industry was responsible for up to 30% of the meat consumed in the U.S., I leveled with myself in acknowledging that I love all animals just as much as I love my dogs. I had a really hard time justifying what these animals go through to feed my own pets,” said Amanda. 

Best Vegan Dog Food Bramble
Credit: Bramble

She then contacted board-certified vet nutritionists to formulate a diet for her pets privately, and was initially looking for a couple of recipes that she could cook at home for her own dogs. 

“If I had immediately heard, ‘no, dogs are carnivores, you can’t do this,’ I don’t believe I would have gone down this path,” Amanda affirmed. 

But that wasn’t the case. She heard, over and over, that dogs are omnivores and can absolutely thrive on a plant-based diet, if done correctly. 

“People think that dogs are carnivores, and that they’re supposed to eat like their wolf ancestors. So that’s really closely linked to why people think [dogs] need animal protein. We hear it all the time, ‘what would they eat in the wild?’ And I’m so confused by this, because if someone wants to make a biologically appropriate argument, there’s nothing biologically appropriate about dry kibble. And if you want to try to point to wolves and what they eat in the wild, they’re not eating processed junk. And so the majority of the protein you’re getting in dry kibble is not actually coming from whatever animal ingredients are in there because [they’re] processed to the point where they have to add in so many synthetic ingredients in order to meet nutritional needs,” Amanda explained.  

Amanda was going to Whole Foods to source ingredients for her dogs’ meals, weighing the ingredients out, and cooking for them at home. But, it was extremely time-consuming. And what she really wanted was a fresh dog food delivery service that was plant-based, but it didn’t exist. She then went to work – alongside board-certified vet nutritionists – to identify what would work best health-wise and scalability-wise for a fresh prepared plant-based dog food, and started a company of her own to fill this market gap. 

“It was a matter of weighing taste and getting the pet food formulation right,” Amanda said. “Because what is good for humans – namely high fiber content – is only good for dogs up until a certain point, because too much fiber for dogs can lead to more of a weight-loss diet.” 

Some of the options she could have sourced from were way too high in fiber; so Amanda ultimately went with a pea protein base, which was another hurdle in that the FDA had recently flagged a potential connection between peas/legumes and dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs (also known as DCM, the second most common heart disease in dogs).

“I wasn’t going to launch a product that wasn’t good for dogs,” Amanda said. 

So she contacted animal nutritionists – different to vet nutritionists, who are in the business of formulating food – vet nutritionists are typically PhDs and professors at universities that teach animal nutrition and run feeding trials and tests for the FDA. So she went straight to the source, namely, the people that were actually looking into the potential issue of a legume and DCM connection and were actively publishing papers on whether or not there is a true correlation present.

“Unfortunately, a lot of vets aren’t nutritionists, and a lot of consumers who get their information from vets are solely relying on this obscure mention of a connection without really having gone further, because vets are very risk-averse,” Amanda said. “What became clear pretty quickly was that there is not a causal connection.”

While Amanda can only speak for Bramble’s formulation – as there may be certain other plant-based dog food brands that are lowering their protein inputs, and processing and denaturing the ingredients further to a point that there is an imbalance of protein, grains, and taurine, “With a diet like Bramble that is so high in protein, gently cooked, and with ingredients that are really bioavailable,” she said that, “we’re really confident that [peas] are a safe ingredient; because it’s not legumes, per se, [that cause DCM], it’s what you do to those ingredients” Amanda explained.  

She shared that Bramble has conducted extensive feeding trials that demonstrate how their formula’s proteins and fats are highly digestible, have optimal levels of fiber, and contain taurine levels that remain well above heart-healthy ranges. And, dogs that are fed Bramble have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. So, it’s a very heart and gut-healthy diet with highly bioavailable nutrients. 

In fact, the company was named after one of the world’s longest living dogs, Bramble, who lived a long and healthy life of 25 years while consuming a fresh, vegan diet. 

Top Plant-Based Founders and CEOs 2024
Credit: Bramble

Amanda’s initial R&D process, plus finding packaging and manufacturing for the products themselves, took about two years until Bramble was ready to go-to-market. In 2020, Bramble was one of the eight companies (out of over 450 applications) accepted into the Food-X Accelerator.

Since then, Bramble has been shipped to homes across the U.S., and is currently feeding around thousands of healthy, happy dogs. 

And, there’s an entire algorithm they’ve built to cut down on Bramble’s carbon ‘pawprint.’ Bramble aims to avoid shipping people half-empty boxes of food, but even so, customers have the option to receive smaller shipments if they live in an apartment or have a small freezer.

But when it comes to sustainability, Amanda is conscientious, but a realist. 

“We can’t check every box perfectly, and the one thing I’d caution about that is that, if you don’t support companies that are doing the best they can for a mission that you’re passionate about because we’re not doing enough on the other fronts such as packaging, then you’re maybe making it easier for the big companies that don’t have any mission to succeed and not allow us to grow to the point where we will be able to afford much more sustainable packaging,” Amanda shared. 

“But, I’m very proud of the fact that, just by being a plant-based company, you are having a much more positive effect on sustainability and climate change [than animal product-derived brands]. We have to reduce our overconsumption of animal products,” she added.

Amanda also pointed out that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t vegan and not as driven by animal welfare and sustainability, but they care about two things more than anything: pet health and convenience. “We have to be as convenient as the other companies that are doing something similar, but with meat. So it also is really about trying to strike that balance, as well. It’s hard when people have very competing beliefs, and wants, and needs,” Amanda admitted. 

She’s right. You can’t be everything, to everyone. But, by default, Bramble is inherently more climate-friendly than animal-derived dog foods, considering animal agriculture’s significant role to carbon and methane emissions, polluted waterways, and deforestation. This fact, alone, makes them far more sustainable, and why consumers should still feel very good about purchasing this food for their health of their pets, and the health of the planet. 

As for her favorite vegan human food product at the moment, Amanda is a big fan of Beyond Sausage. She doesn’t eat it often because Amanda, similar to myself, doesn’t necessarily miss the taste and texture of meat. But around July 4th she typically gets a hankering for hot dogs, and Beyond’s sausages very much satisfy that craving. “I’m just so impressed by what they’ve accomplished,” she said. 

Amanda lives in New York City and is lucky to be surrounded by an abundance of plant-based restaurants. Candle Cafe is a favorite eatery of hers in the city. “They really launched the vegan food scene in New York,” Amanda said. She also loves Anixi and ABCV

In terms of Bryn and McGruff’s favorites, they tend to love Bramble’s Cowbell flavor best, but Amanda shared that some pups love The Roost even more. Bramble’s seasonal holiday Feast flavor is also a fan favorite. Amanda shared that Bramble is soon coming out with kidney-safe formulas, specifically created for dogs with kidney disease. And, she’s currently testing a new flavor formula that will be coming on the market this year. 

“Early taste-tests are giving very positive indicators for that one,” Amanda said with a grin. 

Oh, to be the fur baby of Amanda Rolat; what a charmed life! But, I’m so grateful that dogs across the U.S. can now benefit from her tireless efforts to create healthy, more humane food for our beloved dogs. We’re forever grateful, Amanda.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my list of the best vegan dog food brands (of which Bramble is, of course, included)! And if you’re seeking out some guidance on navigating the grocery store on a plant-based diet, I have a handy list of 101+ grocery items for you.

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