BROOKLYN – Having a chief lab tester takes on a whole new meaning when your business is creating dog treats.
Robin Anthony of Brooklyn, Queens County, is making dogs all over the world happy with her all-natural, gluten-free, preservative-free dog treats made at her home-based business called Grinners Dog Treats.
Originally, Anthony started her company under a different name, which she later discovered was used in the USA, so she decided to change it and apply for a trademark. By that time, she says she had sold treats to people all over the world and was receiving pictures of happy dogs who loved her treats. Grinners quickly became the name.
Grinners came into being in 2014 after Anthony had had a long management career at Bowater Mersey Paper Company. With her love of dogs and experimenting in the kitchen, Anthony set out to create healthy treats.
She started with a lot of research, trial and error and the taste testing help of a wonderful dog she calls her CEO - Canine Eating Officer.
Once she had the concept and a few recipes developed, Anthony met with the food science staff at Perennia in Truro, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping people develop and market agriculture and related food products.
“They were very helpful with ideas for enhancing the nutritional value of my treats,” she says.
Anthony has come up with a few flavoured dog treats, all featuring ingredients from local businesses.
“My dog loved blueberries, so I contacted the Vandyks in Caledonia and now add their blueberry pumice to the Blueberry Chicken and What the Hake flavours for Vitamin C and antioxidants,” explains Anthony.
Those two flavours also get a vitamin B boost from brewers’ yeast that she gets from the Hell Bay Brewery in Liverpool. All the flavours contain Nova Scotia kelp for its mineral content.
Grinners are made without wheat or corn and have no additives or preservatives. They all have eggs and kelp, she says, and they’re hard to provide tartar control for dogs and sturdy enough for owners to carry in pockets. Many dogs have protein allergies, most commonly to chicken and other meats. Fish-based treats that don’t have a strong smell appeal to people with dogs with these conditions.
“It was important to find the balance of enough fish to excite dogs’ noses, but not so much that human noses were offended,” she says. “The air in my kitchen is pungent when the treats are baking, but when they cool, human noses can barely smell them.”
After Anthony took the Grinners treat to market, she adjusted the recipes based on customer feedback. For example, she now makes the treats much thinner so it’s easy to snap them into smaller pieces to feed to little dogs or to use for training purposes.
This is all that is necessary for dogs, anyway, Anthony says. Obesity is a big problem with dogs and over treating is a root cause.
“I’m a big believer in treating dogs often, but treating small, which is why Grinners treats are tiny compared to many commercial products,” she says.
Dogs think with their noses, so there is no need to feed dogs big treats as the smallest tidbit that thrills their nose is all it takes to make them happy.
Overall, Anthony says, she started Grinners with a goal and a question. The goal was to create a product that people would buy when they came to Nova Scotia, answering the Ivany Report’s challenge to create exports and bring new money to the Nova Scotian economy. The question was: would people on vacation buy souvenirs for everyone - and their dog?
The answer is yes. In the past three years, about 60 per cent of Grinners’ sales have been to out-of-province customers, so in a tiny way, Grinners is supporting the Ivany Report’s goal of growing Nova Scotia’s export economy, says Anthony.
Most of Anthony’s sales are through a stall at Halifax Seaport Farmers Market on weekends. People visiting on cruise ships, attending conferences, studying in Halifax and visiting the province have taken Grinners treats home with them. So far, treats have been taken to far-off places like Mexico and Australia.
In the process of building her business, Anthony says she’s been rewarded by meeting wonderful people in the global dog-loving community, have been told truly inspiring rescue stories and have shared heartfelt moments of remembrance for dogs loved and lost.
“Starting my small business has certainly been a challenge but it’s had its rewards,” she says.
Grinners Dog Treats are available at Jollytails in Halifax, Planet Paws in Dartmouth, Wiles Lake Farmers Market, the gift shop at White Point Beach Resort, the Hell Bay Growler store in Liverpool, at the Plaid Cat in Liverpool and at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market on weekends.
Go online: Learn more about Grinners Dog Treats at https://www.facebook.com/grinnersdogtreats/