Behind the Scenes: Himalayan Corp.
It all started with a rescue dog and a bag of traditional Nepali cheese.
Nishes Shrestha and Suman Shrestha (friends who share the same last name) emigrated from Nepal to the U.S. and launched their first dog treat—called a Himalayan Dog Chew—in 2007, and a company was born.
Himalayan Corp., the Mukilteo, Wash.-based pet treat manufacturer, is unique in many ways. It was the first to introduce a Himalayan hard cheese made from yak’s and cow’s milk to U.S. pet owners as an alternative digestible chew for dogs.
The demand for its chews is met by 3,000 Nepalese farmers, who provide the key ingredients, while other Nepalese make and ship the finished products from a production facility in Nepal to the U.S. and other countries.
“It’s always been a part of our mission to improve the lives and well-being of dogs around the world,” said Brandon Barney, marketing manager for Himalayan Corp. “As we continue to grow, we often are presented with opportunities to help our animal and human populations.”
Himalayan Corp., which does business as Himalayan Dog Chew, has a young and vibrant workforce at its Washington-state facility.
Pet Product News: Share Himalayan Dog Chew’s story.
Brandon Barney: In 2003, Nishes and Suman were meeting for dinner at Nishes’ house. Nishes had a rescue dog from Nepal and a bag full of the traditional handmade Nepali cheese called churpi. Suman saw Nishes give some to the dog, and the idea was born.
They spent the next four years perfecting the recipe to remove the lactose and fat and premiered the product at a local farmers market.
It didn’t take long for a few local pet specialty stores to notice and carry what was now called Himalayan Dog Chew in their stores. That was the moment they knew they had a hit. They called in Suman’s brother, Sujan, to act as CEO, and under his leadership, we’ve grown to where we are today.
PPN: What differentiates this chew from others?
BB: It’s is made from only yak and cow milk, and a small amount of salt and lime juice.
The cheese itself is more than 50 percent protein and contains less than 1 percent fat. The product is lactose free and totally digestible.
We offer Himalayan Dog Chew, Yaky Snacks, Leanlix, Ruff Roots, and Chew and Chew, and 58 total SKUs.
PPN: Did the pet community initially embrace a yak-milk-based treat?
BB: There was some confusion at first. Truthfully, though, it didn’t take a lot of convincing. The pet world was ready for a new category of dog chew.
PPN: What food safety issues are involved with your products?
BB: Moisture levels are our only Achilles’ heel. If the cheese is improperly stored (carried outside by a dog and left there) and moisture is left on the product in warm temperatures, you’ll start to see mold develop. It’s not too common, but it can happen.
PPN: How did the founders start the business?
BB: There was no bank loan or big investor. Suman, Nishes and Sujan pooled their money and came up with about $1,300. They spent all of it on raw materials. They did all the work by hand and reinvested every dime of profit back in to growing the business, refusing even to pay themselves.
PPN: How has your company grown since it was founded?
BB: In seven years, we have grown from a small kitchen to a sprawling 35,000-square-foot facility.
PPN: How many employees do you have?
Himalayan Dog Chews are digestible and consist of just four ingredients: yak milk, cow milk, salt and lime juice.
BB: We have 46 employees here at our Washington-state facility, most of whom work in production. They do everything from receiving shipping containers from Nepal to washing, cutting, buffing, packaging, boxing and shipping [product] to customers, and that’s just for the chew. We also manufacture products for our other brands, Yaky Snacks, Leanlix, Ruff Roots, and Chew and Chew.
PPN: Share the ways your company makes the world a better place.
BB: Giving back to Nepal is huge for us. After the earthquake we set up a new charity through mealandwaterforvictims.com.
Our CEO Sujan was in Nepal with his family during the quake and immediately went to work helping. He closed our production facility for two weeks (unharmed by the quake) and paid our production team its regular wage to hand out food and water to the greater Kathmandu Valley.
Sujan also sits on the board of the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre (katcentre.org.np), which works tirelessly to help the street dogs that are everywhere in Nepal.
PPN: What does the future hold for Himalayan Dog Chew?
BB: We grow more and more every year. We’re looking forward to introducing new products every year, which in return will lead to facility and internal growth as well.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Natural Pet News.