Bikkies for the bow wows

The Dominion Post - - Career Market -

MANY kinds of an­i­mal test­ing are frowned upon these days, and rightly so, but there’s a se­lect group of Feather­ston dogs that had no prob­lems with be­ing part of Karyn Carter’s test­ing panel.

Carter is cre­ator, man­u­fac­turer and mar­keter of dog­gytreats, a range of dog bis­cuits made from lo­cally sourced all-nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents, free of grain and other things not good for dogs, and safe even for hu­mans to eat.

Carter her­self has done the taste test.

‘‘They’re a bit tough and quite chewy,’’ she says. ‘‘And, I have to ad­mit, I needed a glass of Wairarapa’s finest to wash down the beef liver sam­ple.’’

Dogs how­ever are happy to chow down with­out the ben­e­fit of a side bowl of chardon­nay.

As well as beef liver, there’s chicken liver and a mix­ture of ba­con and parme­san to tempt the most so­phis­ti­cated ca­nine palate. The bis­cuits also con­tain vi­ta­mins and min­er­als to keep coats glossy and own­ers com­ing back for more.

Carter came up with the idea af­ter re­lo­cat­ing from Welling­ton to Feather­ston.

‘‘I was in­spired by the num­ber of peo­ple mak­ing all their own things here – like olive oils, laven­der prod­ucts and so on – and I’d just won a food pro­ces­sor and cake mixer, so I thought surely there was some­thing I could do with them.’’

Notic­ing the large num­ber of ca­nine com­pan­ions in the area was the eu­reka mo­ment, Carter says.

‘‘Wher­ever you go, there are dogs. They’re ev­ery­where. So I came up with a way to com­bine the cre­ative urge with do­ing some­thing for them.’’

Carter set about re­search­ing what might make a healthy treat for dogs, and then had to de­velop recipes, which proved to be a chal­lenge.

‘‘I wanted them to be grain-free, but grain-free dough with­out gluten is a night­mare,’’ Carter says. ‘‘I’d never baked be­fore – any­thing – so to get the in­gre­di­ents to stick to­gether and then be able to cut them out into a pre­cise shape, and make sure they taste good . . . it was a lot of trial and er­ror.’’

With the pro­to­types out of the oven, a test­ing panel was re­quired.

‘‘A friend of mine op­er­ates a doggy day care cen­tre, so she had lots of mutts to test the bis­cuits,’’ Carter says. ‘‘And then any­one I knew who had a dog was roped in.’’

Ini­tial feed­back was very favourable. ‘‘I could tell by the wag­ging tails,’’ Carter says.

‘‘So I moved into proper pro­duc­tion. At the start I was lit­er­ally hand rolling the dough, and quickly re­alised that wasn’t going to be fea­si­ble so I ended up in­vest­ing in some proper com­mer­cial bak­ing equip­ment.’’

Although the dough is done in a ma­chine, the bis­cuits are cut out by hand us­ing a bone-shaped stam­per.

‘‘And then they have to be cooked,’’ says Carter. ‘‘That takes about 18 hours – it’s slow but helps keep all the good­ness in and main­tains the in­tegrity of the bis­cuit.’’

To mar­ket her prod­uct, Carter has taken her prod­uct to the mar­kets – one in Feather­ston on Satur­days and oth­ers through­out the Wairarapa.

‘‘The stalls are a great way to get the brand out there,’’ she says.

‘‘Peo­ple get to meet me and see it’s an hon­est per­son pro­duc­ing an hon­est prod­uct as it were – and only for hon­est dogs.

‘‘I sell them on­line as well – I had to make my own web­site which I had no ex­pe­ri­ence in – and I’ve got them into su­per­mar­kets, in New World in Thorn­don and also at Grey­town Fresh Choice, along with Vet Ser­vices Wairarapa.’’

Per­suad­ing su­per­mar­kets to stock goods is never easy, Carter says.

‘‘There were cer­tain con­di­tions to meet – I had to buy bar­codes and be part of the prod­uct re­call regis­ter, so there were quite a few hur­dles to get over.’’

‘‘Ini­tially the su­per­mar­kets were un­sure how they’d go, but I’ve spo­ken to the gro­cery man­ager in the Welling­ton store and he was re­ally im­pressed, and the peo­ple in Grey­town are quite big lo­cal sup­port­ers so they were quite happy to stock the bis­cuits be­cause of that.’’

Carter’s back­ground is not what you’d ex­pect from some­one in the pet food busi­ness. A for­mer as­so­ciate pro­ducer on game show Sale of the Cen­tury, she was work­ing for the Depart­ment of Im­mi­gra­tion in the cap­i­tal be­fore the move over the hill.

Ear­lier, Carter had been in Sydney work­ing in event man­age­ment, re­turn­ing to Welling­ton to take up a role with the Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vice be­fore mov­ing to the Depart­ment of Labour.

‘‘They were re­brand­ing the im­mi­gra­tion ser­vice,’’ Carter says.

‘‘And I was in­volved in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of that. It was all very busy with long hours, but I re­ally en­joyed it . . . and then I got sick.’’

Carter had de­vel­oped a bone dis­ease, which re­quired one hip to be re­placed.

‘‘The other’s due to be done next year,’’ she says. ‘‘On top of that I also have chronic fa­tigue syn­drome – so to cut a long story short – I had this great nor­mal life and then I got sick, and I wasn’t able to work.’’

The shift to Feather­ston has been ben­e­fi­cial on more than one level, she says.

‘‘The Wairarapa is warmer and that’s helped im­mensely. But I came to the re­al­i­sa­tion that I could no longer do what I’d used to do – a busy full-on job, run­ning around in heels look­ing fab­u­lous and try­ing to per­form – so I needed to find some­thing else. And some­thing I could do from home.’’

Carter has a cou­ple of other prod­ucts cur­rently un­der wraps that will hit the stalls next year.

‘‘They’re two quite dif­fer­ent prod­ucts – not bis­cuits – that are for dogs’ well­ness,’’ she says.

‘‘Strangely enough – af­ter all that cor­po­rate pranc­ing about – I ac­tu­ally en­joy mak­ing these bis­cuits. I do get a tremen­dous amount of sat­is­fac­tion, and I’ve cer­tainly utilised my skills, par­tic­u­larly with brand­ing, de­vel­op­ing the brand from scratch, de­sign­ing the logo, pack­ag­ing, even the gazebo – it’s all mine.’’

For more in­for­ma­tion go to:­

Karyn Carter runs Doggy Treats from her home in Feather­ston. Here she is giv­ing a sam­ple of her high-end dog bis­cuits to Kobi the labrador. Pho­tos: JOHN NI­CHOL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

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