Dr. Mahsa Vazin, PhD | Founder Spotlight

Dr. Mahsa Vazin is the founder of PawCo Foods, a plant-based dog food company with a mission of making the world a greener place, one meal at a time. And while Mahsa has worked with board certified animal nutritionists to develop an optimal product for dogs, her own background is beyond impressive and couldn’t have better prepared her for this venture. 

Mahsa Vazin earned her PhD in nanoscience (no big deal!) and was one of the early scientists at Impossible Foods. So, suffice it to say, she’s probably one of the best people out there to develop the first plant-based meat optimized for dogs. 

After completing her PhD program, Mahsa was exploring job opportunities and stumbled upon an opening at Impossible Foods; she quickly got the job and started two weeks later, ultimately working for several years on Impossible’s research and R&D teams.

Top Vegan Founders 2024
Courtesy of Mahsa Vazin

When Mahsa later adopted her dog, Paco, she started thinking about what the best possible food would be for him. She then tapped various experts – including fellow scientists and animal nutritionists, and AI-powered data on taste, budget, and more – to start dreaming up her own plant-based product. 

“The combined forces of my experience – from Impossible Foods to adopting Paco and being his mom – inspired me to start PawCo Foods and really think about healthy food options for our lovely dogs,” Mahsa said. 

And so she got to work on formulating a plant-based meat for dogs, and shortly thereafter PawCo was born.

Plant-Based Dog Fresh Food
Courtesy of Mahsa Vazin

“We use very high quality-ingredients including plant and yeast proteins, [and the food has] all the minerals dogs need to have a very healthy and happy life. It’s also a complete and balanced [pet food] so the owner doesn’t need to add any other supplements. We offer complete amino acids in our formulas,” Mahsa explained. “All of our existing products use probiotics to support the immune system and gut health. And now with LuxBites we also [offer[ postbiotics, as well.”

PawCo started off with GreenBites, their original fresh formula made from their proprietary GreenMeat. And at the start of this year, PawCo released two new recipes: LuxBites and InstaBites. LuxBites is their premium formula enhanced with fermented proteins and postbiotics, and InstaBites is a shelf-stable option. 

Since launching on the market about a year ago, Mahsa has received praise and support from both the start-up and innovation world and consumers, alike. They were the winners of the Food & Ag category of Rally’s IN-Prize Pitch Competition in 2023. 

Rally IN Pitch Prize Winners 2023
Courtesy of Mahsa Vazin

“That was huge for us,” said Mahsa. “It’s the biggest pitch and prize competition in the world and [to be] recognized as the winner in the Food & Ag sector meant a lot to us. It was such a validation for the work and mission at PawCo.” 

Dog parents have also been equally as enchanted by the product. 

“We have customers that email us and say, ‘this product is a godsend,'”Mahsa shared. “They had been looking for something that was healthy and nutritious and that their dog would actually eat, and now PawCo is something that makes owners and their pets very happy,” she said. 

Mahsa shared that the plant-based pet food market has been ripe for disruption for some time now. 

“These days there are a lot of people that see the value and importance of plant-based food; not just for humans, but also for pets, as well,” Mahsa said. “We don’t have to sacrifice lots of animals just to create food for ourselves and our pets, and [we can eat well] without having a negative impact on the environment.” 

Mahsa also spoke to the compelling evidence behind dog longevity rates associated with plant-based diets.

“There’s a lot of research that shows [how] dogs on plant-based diets can live an average of 1.5 years longer. In human years that’s equal to an extra decade of living,” Mahsa said. 

In addition to the nutritional and lifespan incentives of shifting dogs to plant-based diets, there’s the inevitable environmental benefits. Carbon emissions are dramatically reduced when producing plant-based foods over animal-derived ones, and PawCo also uses sustainable and eco-friendly packaging, as well as thoughtful production practices, to minimize the company’s carbon footprint even further. 

“All of our shipping materials are recyclable or made from recycled materials, and we are also considering how we can be more sustainable in our production and manufacturing practices where we use less water and [reduce] waste,” explained Mahsa. “We look at all the details, even the shipping method.” 

Best Plant-Based Fresh Dog Food (Vegan Dog Food Brands 2024) Mahsa Vazin PawCo Founder
Courtesy of Mahsa Vazin

After getting into the weeds on pet food, I had to ask Mahsa what her favorite vegan food product is at the moment. “Maybe I’m a little biased because of working at Impossible Foods, but I really like all of their products – especially the Impossible Sausage. “I’m also a big fan of Black Sheep; I tried their products in different restaurants either as ‘meat’ on salad or on a plate with other veggies, but it has an amazing lamb-like aroma.” 

We then chatted about Bay Area vegan restaurants, of which we both agreed that Baia in San Francisco is an absolute favorite. “I’m a big fan of Italian food, so it’s one of my favorites that I always recommend.” 

In closing, Mahsa postured, “Why do we need to sacrifice animals when we have all these amazing foods that are super delicious?”

I ask myself the same question all the time. But, through amazing innovators like Mahsa Vazin, the market is able to make huge strides in shifting toward a more compassionate, sustainable, and healthy future. 

If you’re interested in learning more about plant-based dog food, I have a handy article for that! And if you’d like to try out PawCo out for your dog, head to mypawco.com to order your first starter box of one of their fantastic formulas. 

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