Woof Stuff takes a bite out of the dog treats market
By Pauline Fitzgerald - Managing Director of Woof Stuff
It’s no walk in the park to bring a new range of dog treats to market. My name is Pauline Fitzgerald and I am the entrepreneur and dog lover behind Woof Stuff. Woof Stuff is a range of delicious low-fat dog treats and is available in Supervalu stores across Leinster.
The story of Woof Stuff began when we rescued our dog, Zuomo from the side of a busy road at just 8 weeks old. I would often make tasty treats for Zuomo as I baked and Zuomo couldn't get enough of them. He would wait by the oven door, wagging his tail. After much tail wagging from Zuomo and some additional encouragement from my husband Marc, I founded Woof Stuff.
I began an intensive period of product development. After much research, including a panel of 42 four legged helpers, I settled on a range of flavours that appealed to the canine palate. Coming in carrot, spinach, and sweet potato flavours, dogs all over Ireland have been going barking mad for them. Being vegetable-based and free from animal by-products means that Woof Stuff treats have an incredible shelf life of 18 months. Best of all, the Woof Stuff dog treats are low fat, perfect for dogs watching their figure.
Knocking on the doors of Food Academy
After months of market research and product testing, I was ready to go to market. I wanted to join Ireland’s burgeoning food start up scene, so I applied to Supervalu’s Food Academy. I felt this course was exactly what my business needed. There were some eyebrows raised as Food Academy had never accepted a non-human food producer before. I argued that while my food was aimed at the canine market, it was produced to a human standard. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I said I would get my own funding if I had to. I’d do whatever it took. Finally I was accepted and Woof Stuff became the first Food Academy Producer to target a four legged market instead of two.
One of the first things I did was add a GS1 barcode to my packaging. I knew nothing about barcoding at the time, but my mentor in Food Academy was great. He explained the differences between barcodes from GS1 Ireland, and other barcodes available online. I wanted original professional and accurate barcodes so without hesitation, I went with GS1 Ireland.
After graduating from Food Academy, I engaged a bakery to begin a larger scale production. This was a significant step forward for the business and allowed Woof Stuff to meet the growing customer demand at the Super Valu stores.
Crying out for a new production facility
As demand continued to increase, I realised that there was a need to consider looking at other production options and at the same time a change to the interpretation of legislation governing food production, meant it was no longer possible to produce Woof Stuff treats alongside food for humans. It was a severe blow to the business. I contacted a Veterinary Inspector, who provided me with some clear guidelines. It was look for an animal feed plant or start my own. If I couldn’t find a suitable production facility, that would be the end of Woof Stuff.
I contacted company after company, but I couldn’t find anyone willing to take a chance and help produce Woof Stuff products. During this time, production was non-existent, and it felt like the business had ground to a halt. My last roll of the dice was in attending a food exposition in Croke Park. I asked every lecturer at this food expo to see if anyone could help the business get to the next stage. Finally, I got talking to a lecturer from Dublin City University, who took us under her wing and introduced us to Enterprise Ireland.
Now serving low fat dog treats made with vegetables and fruit
Enterprise Ireland got in touch to tell me, that they had spoken to Connolly’s Red Mills, who were now waiting for a call. My daughter and I drove down to meet the directors and after an excellent meeting, we reached an agreement. Woof Stuff was back in business! Thanks to the support of Connolly’s, the Leinster SuperValu stores and the Food Academy team in Cork, Woof Stuff was restocked on shelves and continues to be sold today. Woof Stuff is now selling low fat dog treats made with vegetables and fruit to a range of SuperValu supermarkets, artisan food halls, independent pet shops and dog groomers, hardware stores as well as to veterinary practices, in addition to online. We continue to grow our brand, having been finalists for 5 Agribusiness Awards, and introducing a collection of dog fashions, including bandanas & dog jackets.
You can find Woof Stuff in SuperValu stores across Leinster, or order online at www.woofstuff.ie. Get your product retail ready with a barcode from GS1 Ireland.