The Entre-'paw'-neur's Pet Food From Space Read how start-ups are catering to man's best friend(s)
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After everything you can think meant for humans, is at service for your canine friends too – cabs service, online dating, massage, spa, luxury hotel stays; and products that would cost a fortune to many like a 52-carat dog collar for $3.2 million or $3,000 worth Les Poochs perfume or a $1,200 robe designed by Roberto Cavalli, comes special food prepared by technology right from the space. After all this, it is absolutely normal to wish you were someone's pet.
From Astronauts To Troops To…Dogs!
29-year-old food technologist Awral Beri is a die-hard pet lover. While doing his masters in food technology and processing in the UK till 2010, Beri bumped into the technology used by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for packing fresh food for astronauts in space and by US Department of Defense for troops in warfield that has shelf life of minimum 12 months. Intrigued by how differently the technology can be used, Beri returned to India. The problem as a pet parent for him like others was about the pet food which wasn't fresh and of questionable quality. "I saw very few companies in India manufacturing pet food as most of it is imported," he says. So he picked the technology piece from NASA and plugged it into the gap he saw in the fresh pet food category.
Long Live The Freshness
The technology is called retort sterilization in which the food is packed in a four-layer vacuum pouch and the micro-organisms are destroyed with heat sterilization process. This ensures an airless packaging that keeps food fresh for at least 12 months. Beri launched pet food brand Kennel Kitchen based on this in November 2013 to sell homestyle cooked dog food and recently expanded to cat food as well. He got authorization to use the technology in India from The Defense Food Research Laboratories (DFRL) of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DFRL carry out research and development of food science to cater to the needs of Indian defense forces). "The moisture-less dry food is very boring. You cannot give it to astronauts and troops," adds Beri.
From procuring raw material to doing lab tests and then shipping those to Kennel Kitchen's centralized warehouses from where it is sent to distributors' warehouses before it is further pushed to retail outlets, the product takes around six weeks. At the outlet, depending on the demand, the stock is sold in roughly twothree weeks. "That's why this technology is used to keep the food fresh for that long. In cases of export, there is three-month of additional period before it reaches its destination," asserts Beri. The cost hence is 20 per cent higher than regular pet foods.
Kennel Kitchen sells products at around 500 stores across India, primarily in metros and mostly available at pet stores and veterinary doctors. It also retails through Flipkart, Amazon and its own website however offline stores contribute 80 per cent of the business. Beri is looking to double its growth this year from around 30 per cent last year.
(This article was first published in the June issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)