FRESHWOOF is a popular name for Urban Tails Private Limited. As they say, it is an initiative to bring back the ‘real food’ in your dog’s bowl. We got an opportunity to have a conversation with its proud founders Sakshi Sharma, a certified Canine Nutritionist and Tejwinder Singh, a dog enthusiast. They are active in serving ‘ready-to-eat’ human-grade fresh food that is free from any preservatives/chemicals or artificial ingredients. They discussed about their company’s inception, products and marketing strategies. Following are the excerpts from the meeting…..

When did Freshwoof come into being? When did you decide to start this venture?

Sakshi: It all started when we were in college. Once when I introduced my dog to Tejwinder, he asked me out of curiosity as to what do I feed my dog. I told him that I feed her only home-cooked meals. His second question was obvious that why not packaged food available in the market and why only home-cooked food. I explained him that after researching enough about the kind of food that should be served to our pets and after speaking to various veterinarians, I have come to a conclusion that food that is available in the market is mostly filled with preservatives, by-products, harmful chemicals, and artificial ingredients, which are not fit for human consumption. So, I don’t prefer feeding my dog the packaged food.

Tejwinder: When Sakshi explained me all this, a thought popped up in my mind as to why not start our own healthy dog food venture. Then we started working upon this idea followed by intense research. Finally, after around 8 months, we had three recipes with us. Next step was to get the taste test done, so we spotted 15 dogs in Ajmer and served them our recipes. Unfortunately, not a single dog tasted our food. We did not lose hope and again started from scratch. It took 8 another rounds to finally get our three likeable dog food recipes, which are part of Freshwoof now.

Sakshi: Freshwoof was incorporated in December, 2019, but we started working on it in January, 2018. So, ‘Freshwoof’ is the product of our hard work over the two long years.

Why did you choose vegetarian pet food? Why do you think it is good for our pets?

Sakshi: I have been feeding my dog with vegetarian food from last 13 years. I have researched a lot and consulted various veterinarians. Then I realized that dogs that eat meat based diet are more prone to heart ailments, obesity, skin diseases as compared to dogs that are fed vegetarian diet. Second reason is that there is a misconception among people that as dogs are descendants of wolves, so meat based food is the only good diet for them. But, they need to understand that dogs have been living with humans from last thousands of years and they have evolved a lot. They have developed such genes that help them digest vegetarian food, which is not the case with wolves. So, dogs may belong to the Order Carnivores but biologically, they are omnivores and can lead a happy and healthy life being o vegetarian diet.

Is there any story behind this name ‘Freshwoof’?

The concept behind this name ‘Freshwoof’ is that when anyone empties a Freshwoof packet in their dog’s bowl, each and every ingredient in food can be felt as in the case of homemade food. We are using ‘ready to eat’ technology, in which nutrients and ingredients remain intact. The food served by Freshwoof is completely fresh and it is for your woofs – hence the name ‘Freshwoof’.

Is it a scalable business? How do you see the business in another one year?

Tejwinder: Yes, it is a scalable business. The technology is very old and there are many units in India that are using ‘ready to eat’ technology, so it is absolutely scalable.

Within one year, we see Freshwoof as a community of people who are well aware about what they are feeding to their dogs and at the same time sustaining our environment.

Sakshi: Freshwoof has been introduced as a supplementary meal. It is not nutritionally balanced. You have to feed Freshwoof with additional multivitamins. In the coming months, we are planning to make Freshwoof a complete nutritionally balanced meal.

When you launched your venture, what challenges did you face in promoting your products?

Sakshi: The biggest challenge that we faced was that people are reluctant to serve vegetarian food to their dogs as they are of the perception that meat based food is the only good diet for dog’s health. We struggled a lot to convince people that vegetarian meals are equally good and nutritious to maintain their dog’s health. We are still facing this issue.

Tejwinder: In abroad, many startups are dealing in vegan and vegetarian pet food; the only difference is that there people are more aware. In India, awareness level is low. Dogs need protein not meat. Meat is not the only source for protein. There are many other good vegetarian sources of protein as well. We are set to bust all such myths about dog food.

What are your thoughts on Indian Pet Food Market?

It is going to boom in next two years as awareness is increasing and number of dog adoptions has considerably gone up. Also, we believe that this boom is towards the healthy pet food because now people know what to feed their pets.

Who are your major competitors?

Anyone who is selling preservatives and chemical filled pet food is our competitor. We believe that if we have same vision of feeding dogs with a healthy diet then there would not be any competition, we will grow together.

How do you retail your products? Do you sell through pet stores?

Currently, we do not have any offline stores; neither do we supply our products to any pet stores. Our products are available on our own website and on online platforms like amazon and flipkart. We launched our products in March and then this lockdown happened. As soon as things normalize, we will shift towards offline stores.

Are you finding any difference in the response you are getting on your own website and on other online platforms?

We are getting more orders through our website. As more and more people are coming to know about Freshwoof through social media handles, they visit our website.

What strategy do you follow so that product could reach maximum number of people? How do you make your brand reach the pet owners?

Sakshi: We are reaching to our customers through social media handles, by blogging about our products online, and by talking to more and more people about Freshwoof so that we can establish a direct connect with our customers.

Tejwinder: Our strategy is basically to be real. We believe in maintaining complete transparency and above all our food is human-grade. So it is very healthy for dogs.

How many variants of pet food do you have right now?

Currently, we are serving three recipes: Beany Rice, Chicky Oats, and Tofunoa. All are based on lacto-vegetarian diet with less than 5% of egg in them.

Do you have a team of nutritionists for formulating and maintaining the nutritional value of your products?

Right now, we do not have any such in-house team. But we do have a board of advisors consisting three veterinarian doctors, who guide us in maintaining the nutritional value of our food. Also, we have incubated in Start-Up Chaupal, an incubation centre in Jaipur. Their team is also helping us.

What message do you wish to convey to pet parents regarding pet food?

Sakshi: Pet owners should always check ingredients of packaged food that they buy for their dogs. Randomly picking up food without any knowledge can adversely affect their pet’s health. Secondly, please do not hesitate to spend more on your dog’s diet; it is about their health. They are like all other family members. Feeding preservatives and by-products filled food will result in deteriorating their health.

Tejwinder: Along with knowing the ingredients, they should also understand the importance and value of each and every ingredient. They should start researching more.