Juhi Singh is a veritable encyclopaedia when it comes to animals, or “bacchas”, as she likes to call them. It’s a pleasant Saturday evening in Bandra, one of Mumbai’s posh suburbs, and I’ve just arrived at Furry Friends, a cosy and popular pet salon. As we start discussing canine-specific food outlets, Singh tells me about a certain old lady who lives near her salon with a Maltese. This Maltese is treated better than most of us are. Why you ask? Is someone getting cookies imported specifically from Australia for your pleasure? I guess not. But this Maltese is getting that special treatment. Goes to show how far we’ve come from kitchen leftovers for our favourite pet furries, right? Singh was referred to me by Gayatri Marwah, an art director who has worked on films such as Lakshya, Dil Vil Pyar Vyar and Hum Saath Saath Hain. What does Ms Marwah do now? She bakes cakes and ‘pupcakes’ and makes ‘pupsicles’ for dogs and has her own, barkery — a bakery that caters to our furry friends.
On the 4th of May and the 1st of June last year, the Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai hosted a rather unconventional high tea for an equally unconventional set of guests. The specially curated menu included chicken and oatmeal, chicken bacon and cheese, devilled eggs and muffins. The guests were four-legged and had wagging tails and their wards paid around Rs 1000 for them. This was to soft launch and announce the fact that the Hyatt had become pet-friendly and would be allowing dogs, cats and the whole menagerie into their rooms. Singh and Marwah were behind the production and direction of the high tea. Metropolises around the country have begun catering to man’s best friend.
“I adopted Harley, my son (his pet dog) from a construction site and started cooking for him. I realised more and more dogs needed such healthy and tasty food. So, Harley became the CTO — Chief Tasting Officer; and Harley’s Corner was born,” says Ishmeet Singh Chandiok, the CEO of Mumbai-based Harley’s Corner. On a monthly basis, Chandiok receives orders for around 70 to 80 cakes besides ice creams and treats. Like most barkeries in the country, Harley’s Corner has multiple options for dogs under the following categories: cakes, ice creams, doggy cupcakes, treats and meals. Ingredients include chicken, mutton, chicken liver, yoghurt, eggs and vegetables.
“We have consulted nutritionists and vets to choose the best ingredients for our products. Everything that we make is sugar and preservative-free. Our flavours are fruit, vegetable and chicken-based and everything is procured and delivered fresh. All ingredients are discussed beforehand with the customers while taking the orders and we add or omit according to preferences,” says Apoorva Piplani of The Floof Pet Bakery, Gurugram, when I ask her how she decides on the ingredients. When I ask these proprietors why they got into this extremely niche business, the answer is almost always the same — they had been baking and curating meals for their pets and had realised that there was a vacuum in the market for dog-based food.
“I got into this business, thanks to my friends and family. I always baked cakes for my little one, Piper Cub and people around me loved it and wanted it for their pet as well,” says Erika Kleinmann, the owner of Piper’s Pet Bakery. Kleinmann is the one who has been introducing cakesicles and painted dog cookies in the country and makes her products with human-grade ingredients only. She comes down to Mumbai from Belgium and delivers around the wcity. Kleinmann gets around six to seven orders every day and more on days when people are celebrating their pets’ birthdays. While every barkery has its own bestseller, on an average, their menus feature gluten free cakes which are made with 100 percent meat and eggs, chicken and liver mousse cake, liver ice-cream and chicken cupcakes. Most of these are ingredients that dogs love and since these products are mostly 80 percent protein, it is literally a feast for man’s best friend. And if you thought gluten-free and vegan food was only for human beings, you’re wrong. Many of these barkeries may not support vegan food for pets (as told to us off-the-record) but they cater according to their clients’ wishes. Like Kleinmann, barkery owners often discuss ingredients with vets to make sure the products are healthy and nutritious. The rest, like Chandiok, have studied canine nutrition and formulate their own recipes.
The barkeries I spoke to only used recipes that were trialled on dogs and had over 80 per cent acceptance rates amongst all canines. The food that is served for the pets can also be consumed by humans. However, of course, the barkeries only guarantee satisfaction for their animal customers.