We’ve always heard of kids wanting to be a veterinary doctor and when they grow up some of them do while others take up a new career path. But have you heard of someone wanting to bake and create yummy treats for pets? Well, that’s a first and we’ve met just the person.
The Lifestyle Portal met up with the very beautiful Akanksha Arora, a 26-year-old pastry chef from Mumbai.
She’s a graduate in Sociology from Mithibai College, Mumbai and is a Diploma Holder in Bakery and Patisserie, Associates Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from the Culinary Institute of America.
In the past three and a half years, she has worked with Theobroma Mumbai, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in New York.
We talk to her about launching Barker’s Dozen, a boutique pet patisserie that makes healthy, wholesome and more importantly safe edible goodies for your pet friends. So if you have pets or planning on keeping one, here’s what will interest you –
How did it all begin?
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been fond of animals. I wanted a career in something that I am passionate about. Since taking care and playing with all sorts of animals isn’t a full-time career, I chose a career in food specializing in Baking & Pastry, which I love but I knew it wasn’t fulfilling my other passion that is something to do for animals,” recalls Akanksha.
Akanksha always had a pet at home. After her first pet passed away, she started reading about reasons for early deaths in pets and to her surprise she found that one of the main reasons were the kind of food and the diet given to them.
After consulting vets around she realised that people are not really aware of what is safe to give to their pets. People think that if it is okay for a human to eat, it will be okay for the pet to eat it as well.
“At the Culinary Institute, we were briefly told about different edible products, how they affect the human body and what effect these products may have on pets. While working at Bouchon in New York , I learned how to make a type of pet treat that became popular during my break back home in Mumbai for my pet child ‘Tiger’. When I saw that he loved it (that meant I had passed the most important test), I replaced his evening snack with these treats. I used these treats to get him to do things like go for a walk (Tiger was 10 and had arthritis due to which he did not get up much) and follow some basic commands. I created a few other recipes keeping in mind the dietary limitations of pets. After which they were given for testing and okayed by vets. By this time I had introduced the treats to the other pets of my family, the treats were used as training treats and evening snacks,” smiles Akansha.
Following which other pet parents who knew Akansha started to contacted her. Once they had their doubts cleared about the ingredients, they placed trial orders. At this point, she felt that this was the perfect thing for her, and she turned her passion project to Barkers’ Dozen.
Initial investment & Branding
“I started very small. No cards or brochures just a small kitchen. After developing a few recipes I took them to a testing lab to get them tested and also to the vets for them to give feedback about the treats. This part did involve some amount of investment of time and money, and after trying several recipes that were okayed, I made samples to distribute to pet parents,” states Akanksha.
She loves puns so the name of the brand had to be something with a twist. Being a pastry cook she wanted a pun in her brand name, and not run of the mill name. After much deliberation with her family Akansha came up with the name Barker’s Dozen.
Though she further adds, initial investment was the cost of raw materials, packaging, electricity, testing, delivery etc. Once the samples were tried by the pet parents they were recommended to other people. For the first two months she only kept talking to different pet families and personally going to deliver the samples so she could meet the pets and the parents and watch their pets give these treats a try and explain to the pet parents the importance of good and right food for their pets.
“Business was not my prerogative as much as educating families with pets that some foods must simply not be given to the pets. Until last month I personally went to deliver the treats,” adds Akanksha.
She feels people are reluctant to give it a try only because a pet bakery is a new concept and people are usually not open to something like this.
She further adds, “For the most part I have heard people say “USA se padh ke aayi aur yahan aake kutte ke biscuit banati hai” Only a handful of pet lovers readily accepted it because they understood the need for this concept in the market. People are slowly familiarizing themselves with this concept. My initial aim was for people to let their pets sample these treats (pet parents can also try it as they are made with human grade ingredients) once their pet tries it I know they would want to order it again.”
Akanksha admits that some of the other challenges she faces are – reluctance on the part of pet parents and pet families not knowing what is good for their pet. Competition with leading brands and a challenge to convince people that giving a freshly made product with highest quality ingredients and preservative free are way better than a bulk bags of treats made with remains of animals and full of preservative. Due to these reasons, products mass-produced are way cheaper and that is something that convinces the pet parents to give to their pets.
Some of her main clientele include – Pet parents (for dogs of different ages), pet trainers, veterinary doctors and she also caters to pet events like parties and workshops. As strange as it may sound but she’s also had a few orders for the foie liver treat and chicken rice treat for people who do not have pets but like to eat it themselves.
Barker’s Dozen also caters to cats as well, although it is a recent development. Some of the diet restrictions that they have to keep in mind while creating recipes is that some pets have gluten allergy so we need to have gluten free products; also some pet parents want only vegetarian treats and cakes for their dogs so they also have to have a good amount veggie options which are equally healthy for pets available. Similarly, we need have lactose free products for any pet that, may have lactose intolerance.
What makes Barker’s Dozen unique?
“Barker’s Dozen’s USP is fresh and healthy ingredients that are created especially for your pet child as per their dietary requirements. Our menu is unique because we have tried and tested different recipes and come up with the top sellers to put on our menu. We have non-veg and vegetarian treats. Savoury treats like foie liver treats and naturally sweetened carob chip treats with veg and non-veg options for cakes also available, adds Akanksha.
What’s more, Barker’s Dozen can also accommodate any dietary requirement the pet may have and make changes in the recipe accordingly.
Menu options from Barker’s Dozen for your pets
All treats and cakes can be customized to accommodate a special dietary need of a dog. For e.g. Gluten free, soft or chewy treat.
Akanksha shares, “The first client of Barker’s Dozen ‘Ruby’ could not chew the biscuits as she is old so we created a soft chicken brownie that is was easy to chew as well as nutritious for her. Another pet child we catered to is Tazz, a 6-year-old Labrador. His parent wanted a cake for him but was concerned about the ingredients used as he had recently undergone a surgery and the doctor had allowed only a few ingredients, due to the repetition of the same food Tazz became a fussy eater. After understanding their concern we made a cake for him. The next morning I received a call from his mom to thank me and to say that he not only loved the cake but kept barking for more.”
Why you should choose Barker’s Dozen for your pets
Because Barker’s Dozen takes pride in being the ‘wholesome way of loving your pet’, all their products are healthy, nutritious and preservative free. What’s even more special about this is that all products can be changed to accommodate any special dietary need of your pet.
They use the highest quality raw materials made with human grade ingredients so these treats can be tried by pet parents too; and all the products are made to order so they are all fresh out of the oven.
The journey so far
Akanksha says “that even though it is a fairly new venture, the journey until now has been interesting”.
“I started this venture by baking for pets of the house, after which we got a few clients and slowly the number of clients increased. Getting clients with this new concept wasn’t easy but it was definitely worth it. I have met some lovely people (animal lovers and pet parents) along the way. I am aiming to double it, if not triple the number of clients by the end of the year. Future plans is to open a pet-friendly cafe that will have desserts and food for humans but also yummy goodies for their pets. It will be a quaint cafe where people and their pets can enjoy a nice scrumptious meal,” smiles Akanksha.
How to get in touch
The central kitchen of Barker’s Dozen is located in Chembur. They deliver treats all over Mumbai. Treats can also be couriered as well.
Barker’s Dozen also has clients that have taken their treats to Bangalore and New York. People can get in touch with Akanksha through at email@example.com. Our website is releasing soon, so online purchases can be made through that.
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