When Anthony Gardiner lost his job due to Covid-19, the most ruthless members of his family were his dogs.
His three “hairballs” got so used to expensive brands of dog food that they poked their noses at the cheapest products.
Sensing that his dogs were starting to get dangerously thin, one night Gardiner urged them to eat the cheaper food by pouring bistro sauce over the dog’s bowl.
The dogs ate it and the idea for Fussy Dog Co dog sauce was born.
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Going into high-end dog cooking was not the Christchurch man’s plan.
He continued to apply for positions in his previous industry in tourism marketing.
But after filing 130 job applications and only having two interviews, he decided to give his idea of a homemade dog sauce a try.
“I was just thinking of putting a hell of a lot of this dog sauce online, and it sold out in three days.” The next lot sold out in three hours. With no money in the bank, we weren’t planning a big vacation, so we spent the summer Christmas time furiously making as much dog sauce powder as possible, ”Gardiner said.
Since those early days on the kitchen bench, the process of making dog sauce had changed a lot.
For his very first batch, Gardiner bought restaurant-grade cuts of meat and ground them with a pepper mill a few tablespoons at a time.
He quickly improved his method to a coffee grinder, but was forced to keep changing his machines as the grinders didn’t appreciate his corned beef slices and salmon steaks.
“The guy at the returns office of the retailer I was buying the coffee grinders from started to get suspicious when I came back the third time around and said, ‘Oh, that’s broken again,’” Gardiner said.
When Gardiner finally switched to a commercial style grinder, the process took off.
His latest machine can grind up to 40 kilograms of meat at a time, far from the pepper mill he started with.
Gardiner has also upgraded its workspace, moving from its kitchen bench to an entire warehouse dedicated to producing dog sauce.
Expansion was necessary as the sauce became a favorite treat for furry friends across the country.
Fussy Dog Company Powdered Sauce can be found in 90 stores, including Farro and Animates. The jars sell for around $ 15.
Sales continue to grow, with the largest month generating sales of $ 17,000.
Gardiner predicts the company could reach $ 200,000 in revenue this year.
But more than just building a successful brand, Gardiner wanted the Fussy Dog Company to be the most transparent pet food in the world.
To do this, each jar of powdered sauce has a QR code that the pet owner can scan to see a picture of the very food that ended up in the jar they are holding.
He saw the product go from being a simple way for picky dogs to eat their dinner to many other uses for pet owners.
“I started this because my dogs weren’t eating, but we’ve had amazing feedback from clients whose dogs were on special diets or whose dogs needed medication. They say it used to be hard to get them to take their pills, but they put a little sauce in it and swallowed it right away, ”Gardiner said.
Gardiner said he was proud to have found a way to give dogs across the country a change from their regular meals.
“All dogs go through a time where they are fed up with what they eat, which is fair enough, if we were to eat dry cornflakes all of our lives we would probably be very sick of it too.
“A lot of dog owners will think they have to buy more expensive dog food to get their dogs interested again. But we have found that we are removing the problem without adding additional expense to a dog owner’s life,” Gardiner said.
His next plan is to try to break into the Australian and Asian markets.
But for now, he’s happy to have created a way for dog owners to show some love to their pets, without breaking their wallets.
“We are all going through tough times financially and we all want to do our best for our dogs. But sometimes you can’t afford that $ 120 bag of dog food. I’m glad I gave dog owners another option, ”Gardiner said.