With market still slow, Billings catering company pivots to homemade dog food

Skipper's Gourmet Grubb made by Abby's Catering
Skipper's Gourmet Grubb
Posted at 2:42 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 16:42:36-04

BILLINGS — Skipper - Abby and Tom Hinthorne’s beloved doodle - has been eating a special breakfast for five years now.

"I did a lot of research, because they need their iron, calcium, fiber," said Abby.

The food is completely homemade, with no preservatives and all human-grade ingredients.

“Looking at what was in the food in the stores, I was going, ‘What in the world is in this?’ Stuff you can’t even pronounce,'" Abby said of her decision to start making Skipper's food herself.

The Billings couple's recipe has treated Skipper and his sister Zara so well that their vet has repeatedly asked them to mass-produce it.

“And we were like, ‘I just think it’s going to be too much trouble with the licensing, and we’re just too busy with the catering,'" Abby said.

Not so much anymore. So in March, the couple started the licensing process and Skipper’s Gourmet Grubb was born.

Skipper's Gourmet Grubb ingredients

“If the pandemic taught us anything," Abby said, "it’s that you have to diversify and have a backup plan.”

Abby made her first commercial batch the first week of April. She can cook 120 pounds of chicken thighs at a time at the couple's commercial kitchen, and she grinds beef heart, tongue, and liver herself. The Hinthornes plan to sell direct to consumers using a subscription service - instead of at a retail store. Based on the first week, it seems like a good plan.

“We had a lot of people Saturday and Sunday come pick up samples - I’m doing six-ounce samples," Abby said. "And we have five dogs signed up for weekly pickup, which is great.”

“The majority of our business catering-wise was repeat clientele," said Tom. "So we’re hoping for the dog food that we’re going to see dogs for 10 to 15 years.”

All in all, it’s been a win-win.

“I love it. I really do," said Abby. "There’s nothing more satisfying than to get that whole batch together and start stirring it up. (Skipper and Zara) just go nuts.”

There are samples still available at Abby’s Catering at 909 Fourth St. W. The Hinthornes also say you can call 406-690-3740, or find them at the Skipper’s Gourmet GrubbFacebook group.