Pet project: More dough for Sunshine Coast supplier as US market beckons

Coolum pet food manufacturer Emma Gibbons is more than happy to admit her business is going to the dogs – potentially millions of them – as a US fast-food chain comes calling for her unique product.

Mar 22, 2023, updated Mar 22, 2023
Sunshine Coast pet food maker and Queensland Rural Woman of the Year, Emma Gibbons.

Sunshine Coast pet food maker and Queensland Rural Woman of the Year, Emma Gibbons.

The Sunshine Coast business owner who started her pet food operation in 2012, shipped about 400,000 ‘doggie doughnuts’ to Krispy-Kreme outlets across the US, UK and Australia last year allowing the franchise chain to offer a novelty category to customers (presumably those with pets) on International Dog Day.

Her business Huds and Toke, which she runs with husband Russell, her two teenage children and 15 employees, is now poised to begin supplying the chain with enough inventory to fulfill customer demand throughout the year based on the success of last year’s first consignment.

Gibbons said negotiations were entering their final stages and she expected to have confirmation on the terms as early as next month.

If the deal comes off it will mean rapid expansion – more employees and a bigger manufacturing plant.

“We’re currently operating out of a shed in an industrial estate out the back of Coolum, about 300 square metres,” she said.

“If all of this happens, I’m going to need about two acres.”

The Krispy-Kreme opportunity tops a heady start to the year for Gibbons, who earlier this month won the Queensland Rural Women’s Award that comes with a $15,000 purse from sponsor Westpac and business development coaching from Agrifutures, a federal government research and development corporation focused on innovation and technology.

While her petfood treats, crafted for horses and small animals in addition to dogs are largely made from vegetable pulps, peanut butter and animal derived proteins, Gibbons is currently testing insect protein to use in an as yet unreleased line of new products.

Utilising a powdered meal of black soldier fly larvae from an insect farm on the outskirts of Brisbane, Gibbons is gaining feedback on the flavour and palatability from a highly regarded testing panel – the dogs of her employees.

“They absolutely love it,” she said. “Dogs naturally eat insects like flies all the time, so it’s naturally something they are inclined to eat and it’s good for them, because insect meal is packed full of protein.

“And getting protein from insects is better for the environment; they don’t need a lot of land, water and energy to grow so their carbon footprint is much lower.

“Once we have the product just the way we want it, I know it’s going to be a very big hit with environmentally conscious consumers who love their dogs.”

Gibbons’ potential big breakthrough in the US comes as Queensland shapes its future as the “economic epicentre for trade and investment with the United States”, according to American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Australia CEO April Palmerlee.

It is a point sure to be made at AmCham’s next lunch in Brisbane on April 13 when the Queensland chapter of the national organisation hosts Trade Minister Don Farrell for his insights on the country’s new trading environment amid geopolitical upheaval and climate challenges.

Palmerlee said the exchange of technology within the sectors of defence and cyber security between the two countries were acting as “force-multipliers” in growing the overall economic relationship.

“The economic and defence partnerships are the twin pillars of the alliance, and the uncertain geopolitical future means nations are looking to trusted partners, just as businesses do in periods of economic instability,” Palmerlee said.

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“Australia has built over 100 years of trust with the United States. Now more than ever, there is a clear economic advantage to securing supply chains and doing business with like-minded countries who can be trusted to uphold the rules-based international order that promotes peace and prosperity.”











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