Tails will wag for organic dog pizza and other treats at True Treats Pets Bakery in Kirkland
By KIRSTEN JOHNSON
Kirkland Reporter UW News Lab
March 16, 2012 · Updated 10:00 AM
Now, Fido, too can be included in family pizza night.
True Treats Pet Bakery, a Kirkland-based, online, pet-treat business sells organic, tasty treats to pet owners. Menu items include “doggie pizzas,” “pupcakes” and “Mutt muffins.”
The business began three years ago by Kristan Bendixen, an avid animal lover who began baking up organic, healthy treats specially designed for man’s best friend.
“I started to make dog treats not really even knowing if there was any competition or anything, I was just doing what I loved,” she said. “And it kind of grew from there.”
Bendixen’s business has taken off — in addition to canines, she now serves cats, rats, horses and rabbits. True Treats Pet Bakery customers are all over the country, yet Bendixen is a one-woman operation, working entirely from her Kirkland home, baking from the racks of her kitchen oven.
Her treats are simple and healthy, targeted especially to animals with food allergies and sensitivities. The bulk of her products are whole-grain, preservative-free and low in salt and sugar.
“I had a ton of allergies years ago so I was really versed in it,” she said. “I can help people pinpoint what’s going on with their pets.”
In True Treats Pet Bakery's initial stages, Bendixen spent hours researching ingredients and cooking methods to better learn what pets are able to tolerate.
“I eat really pure, healthy food, that’s just how I am,” she said. “I really wanted to find a way to have my pets eat similar and get all the nutrients they need to help them live longer. I just believe that’s a way how they can relate to us, by what they eat.”
Much of her ingredient selection comes from trial and error and customer feedback. Her Labrador retriever and three cats are the primary taste testers.
The best-selling treat? Pumpkin cheddar biscuits fly off the shelves, she said. Other favorites are made with apples and carrots, peanut butter, sweet potatoes and cheese.
To promote her business, Bendixen has spent countless hours creating a presence on sites including etsy.com, pinterest.com and Facebook. But she also works locally, selling at farmers markets, holiday shows and volunteering at local pet events, including the 2010 Go Dog, Go! Kirkland Canine Festival.
The frosted pupcakes and pizzas may look tasty to humans, too — but Eric Wheeler, Bendixen’s fiancé, who has tried a few, says it’s best to keep them as treats for pets.
“They’re good, but not really made for a human appetite,” he said.
The holidays are one of the busiest times of year for Bendixen, when orders have her backed up and she’s in her kitchen all day.
“It’s crazy for me,” she said. “But I just make it work, I don’t really have a choice — I love the business so I’ll do whatever it takes.”
In the future, she’d like to grow by finding a way to sell out of the country and and into retail stores while staying true to the organic freshness of her treats. Bendixen said preservatives are not an option.
“I want people to know that it’s fresh and there’s not a bunch of junk in it,” she said. “I do want to keep expanding, but not so much that my product loses its integrity. I’ll do whatever it takes because it’s my life, I breathe it.”
Order True Treats Pet Bakery online at: www.truetreatsbakery.com/
A perk for Kirkland residents: Free, doorstep delivery by Bendixen herself.
Kirsten Johnson is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.