Chattanooga Beer Brewer Expands To Dog Biscuits

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - by John Shearer
Ben Whitelaw with Barley Bones biscuits.
Ben Whitelaw with Barley Bones biscuits.
- photo by John Shearer

Chattanoogan Ben Whitelaw has started a new business venture that has literally gone to the dogs – in a good way.

The 34-year-old recently began selling at several local businesses his Barley Bones-brand dog biscuits, which he believes provides good health to both man’s best friend and the environment due to the recycled food products used.

Using locally sourced, all-natural products made from beer-making wastes, he already has the products placed in four diverse local businesses.

“It’s been going pretty good,” he said. “It’s been steady growth.”

The McCallie School and University of Tennessee graduate’s idea for the product developed over several years. A local commercial brewer, he started his business after trying to figure out what to do with the spent grain used in the brewing process, other than just throwing it away.

As a result, he came up with a concept of developing dog treats that would possibly provide some green for him in the form of income and be green for the environment.

Although the concept was relatively simple, perfecting an ideal recipe was not. As he learned, much time was required to figure out what leftover products to use, and how to best dry them after they became moist in the brewing process.

“Originally it started about four years ago, and I started getting more serious about three years ago and worked on different recipes for dog biscuits,” he said.

He also wanted to develop a dog biscuit that stays together, is tasty to a dog and is healthy, and has an adequate shelf life.

What resulted was an all-natural biscuit that has spent barley, organic rye and organic oat flour, but no wheat or corn. It also has as many locally sourced ingredients as possible and regularly comes flavored with peanut butter or cheddar cheese, with such flavors as sweet potato and honey also now being introduced.

“The whole concept was to be an old general store dog biscuit,” he said, adding that he is not trying to focus on the boutique-style dog biscuit market. “I wanted really simple recipes.”

Just as developing the suitable recipe for the dog biscuit was not easy, neither has been trying to develop an ideal wholesale marketing plan.

His first big opportunity, he said, came earlier this year when the Blue Plate/Local 191 near Ross’s Landing voluntarily offered to hand out samples and sell the bags of the Barley Bones treats at their dog-friendly establishment.

The gesture gave him not only some help, but an idea as well.

“That sparked in me that I should focus not only on retail establishments, but also dog-friendly establishments – places with patios that allow dogs,” he said.

“And I see the dog-friendly locations as a great way of connecting the product with the intended customers. They (the dogs) get to experience the product in a relaxed environment. This is great because often dogs will not eat a treat when in an unfamiliar or busy environment.”

Later, he was able to start selling the treats at the Moccasin Bend Brewery in St. Elmo, which allows dogs in its beer-tasting room. As a result, the dogs get to enjoy some barley and rye while their masters enjoy some hops!

Being able to sell the product at the Moccasin Bend Brewery caused his marketing strategy to be tweaked yet again.

“That’s the kind of thing I’ve wanted to focus on,” he said. “Anybody who takes their dog to a bar or restaurant, that’s the target market. They are going to pay attention to what their dog eats.”

And more recently, he was able to sell the treats in his first retail store establishment – the natural pet supply store, Nooga Paws, at 2 North Shore – as well as Pruett’s Signal Mountain Market.

Mr. Whitelaw, who said he is starting to meet people who know him as the one who makes dog biscuits, said he has been pleased with the way the business is going.

He has a website (www.barleybon.es) and is optimistic about future growth.

“It’s kind of like a snowball slowly rolling down the hill,” he said. “We’re still at the top of the hill, but I feel like were at the point it’s starting to roll.”

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

 

 



Unemployment Rate Inches Up In Northwest Georgia

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said on Thursday that Northwest Georgia saw the number of unemployed residents climb and its unemployment rte tick up in October. The October unemployment rate, at 4.3 percent, was up from 4.1 percent in September. The unemployment rate rose as the number of unemployed residents increased by 391 to 17,800. The October rate compares favorably ... (click for more)

Supreme Court Holds Personal Signature Of Party Appealing In Parental Termination Case Not Required

The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that a father’s notice of appeal, signed by his attorney, but not the father personally, satisfies the statutory signature requirement for appeals in parental termination cases.  The Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of the father’s appeal on the merits.    In this parental termination case, ... (click for more)

5 Disinherited Adopted Children Of Dr. J. Don Brock May Share In Rich Estate After All

Five disinherited adopted children of the late Chattanooga businessman J. Don Brock may share in his large estate after all. After losing at the trial court and appeals court level, the plaintiffs won a victory at the Tennessee Supreme Court. Justice Cornelia Clark ruled in favor of the adopted children and remanded the case to the trial court for settlement of the estate. ... (click for more)

Walker County Asks Dismissal Of Erlanger Lawsuit Asking Court To Order New Taxes For Payment Of $8.7 Million Debt

Walker County, Ga., is asking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Erlanger Health System that asks a federal judge to order the levying of taxes to pay an $8.7 million debt. Walker County noted that new Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has imposed a special tax levy on its citizens designed to satisfy the debt. It also says that Commissioner Whitfield held several meetings with ... (click for more)

Stormwater Fiasco And East Ridge Camping

When did the Chattanooga City Council get replaced by members of the East Ridge City Council? I don't recall a time in Chattanooga where they've voted to shoot the city in the foot more than they have lately.  If this goes through despite the environmental impact warnings and then Camp Jordan has increased flooding after spending millions on sports ball fields, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why I Am Thankful

You would think that after 40 years of publishing an annual list of things for which I am thankful, I’d be getting to the bottom of it, but it seems the older I get I have found I appreciate so much more around me. I take absolute delight in planting a flower, feeding the birds and throwing a ball for my dog. I find that the more people who I come to know the more who I come to ... (click for more)