Spotlight on Huds and Toke

From a simple idea and a leap of faith to a finalist in the Westpac Business of the Future Awards 2017…not bad going!

05 Apr 2017 By Leanne Philpott Comments

Living in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Russell Gibbons and his wife Emma-Louise saw a gap in the market for healthy homemade horse treats. That's where the Huds and Toke story begins. From there the pair got busy making biscuits and treats that horses would love, business soon grew and, despite the challenges, the company has become a well-known national brand.

ZOOKIE: What inspired you in the first place to start creating treats for horses and then dogs?

RUSSELL: We noticed that horses were becoming more and more popular and people wanted well-trained ponies.  At the time we had a horse and we tried to find some treats that would help with its training.

We found that the range was limited, if it existed at all, and the only ones of note that we found were imported from the United Kingdom.

This prompted us to start thinking about what might happen if we actually came up with our own range of treats to suit Australian horse owners.

From there the business grew into creating other products for the broader pet industry such as for dogs, which we had two of.

ZOOKIE: Tell us about the fact that Huds and Toke is a family-run business

RUSSELL: Yes, Huds and Toke is run by my wife Emma-Louise and myself. Yet both our kids know and understand that they are instrumental to the business. In order to be a successful family business we include our whole family.

It’s not unusual to see the kids helping us after school or on a weekend if there is work that needs to be done. I think they really enjoy being able to come to work and actually earn some pocket money whilst understanding that they are an integral part of Huds and Toke’s growth and our story.

They will help make the products, pack boxes… In fact, they are really helpful and seem to enjoy the whole process.

ZOOKIE: On average how many animal treats do you make each day?

RUSSELL: We supply retail outlets all over Australia on a continual basis, plus overseas as well.  So things are always very busy for us and our team are constantly creating and making pet treats each and every day of the week.

We also make treats for specific events like Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and even Halloween. At these times of the year Huds and Toke is crazy busy.

ZOOKIE: What are your best-selling dog treats?

RUSSELL: From the dog treat perspective they all sell very well, however you can’t go past our Doggy Donuts, Frosted Doggy Bones, Frosted Mutt Muffins and Doggy Birthday Cakes.

ZOOKIE: Are there any new treats or other products in the pipeline for 2017

RUSSELL: We are continually in R&D phase but researching and developing new products can be quite time consuming and rather challenging.  However, it’s super exciting to bring a new product idea to life from concept and then to a commercial reality.  So it’s a really enjoyable part of our business.

I can’t tell you exactly what products we have planned… you’ll just have to watch this space!

ZOOKIE: How and when did the opportunity arise to make the brand international?

RUSSELL: From the outset we had export in mind so we designed the brand so that it could potentially be exported.

It’s a long and quite complex journey though, and it has taken some time.  However, now we are developing and servicing some exciting markets internationally.

The “How” is comes from continuously and relentlessly striving for new opportunities.  The “When” seems to take care of itself!

ZOOKIE: What has been the most memorable moment developing Huds and Toke?

RUSSELL: Getting our first firm order for our horse treats was the most memorable moment; up until that time it was all conceptual.  I mean, the horse treat Industry in the USA is enormous, but here in Australia it is in its absolute infancy, so we were really going out on a limb to develop products, which are totally new to Australia.

To get our first order and to ship them out the door knowing they were going into a large group of retail outlets was really awesome. It was a proud moment made even more remarkable by recognising all the challenges we had to overcome, including people’s perceptions, in order to get to this point!

ZOOKIE: What has been the biggest challenge launching Huds & Toke?

RUSSELL: The biggest challenge has been setting up our own private manufacturing facility.

It’s one thing to develop a brand, come up with a name and then start creating prototype products; but it’s another thing all together to take the plunge and invest in a manufacturing set up when all indicators out there are telling you that manufacturing in Australia is dying!

To invest your money and buy machinery and then, after all that, learn how to work that machinery and develop recipes and processes that actually work time and time again is a huge undertaking.

However, in saying this, it has most definitely been a great decision. Difficult? Yes! But we are glad we made the leap as it is turning out to have been the right move.

ZOOKIE: What are your favourite dog-friendly (or horse-friendly!) hang-outs on the Sunshine Coast?

RUSSELL: We love to hang out at the dog friendly café called

Mykies on the Bay in Kawana Island.  It’s a great setting and is really dog friendly with awesome service.

The Velo Project is another spot, which is really dog friendly and they make awesome coffee.

The other café we love to go with our dogs is right on the Mooloolaba Esplanade called Via Italia.  Great view and they are really welcoming of dogs.

For the horses you can’t go past the Eumundi Pony Club.  They have some awesome facilities there and it’s in a lovely setting on acreage between Noosa and Eumundi. It’s a beautiful, friendly little club.

05 Apr 2017 By Leanne Philpott Comments

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