Tom and Cynthia Darmstandler, owners of the gourmet pet treat company Kona’s Chips, never imagined that when they started a very personal journey to create healthy treats for their beloved Pomeranian puppy Kona, they’d stumble upon a need within the pet-owning community.
Like the Darmstandler couple, many pet owners consider their animals their “babies” and want to give them the best food and care available. That’s what they thought they were doing when they purchased a certain brand of dehydrated chicken breast as a treat for their 6-month-old Pomeranian, Kona. But Kona, once lively and spirited, sickened for no apparent reason; and worse, the black pup seemed to be addicted to the chicken treats.
Around the same time, the Darmstandlers received a warning from their breeder about a problem with dehydrated chicken treats imported from China. Kona was rushed to the veterinarian and brought back to health through loving care at the hands of his owners.
But the incident had left a bad taste in the couple’s mouths and it spurred them to action.
“So many dog owners across the United States are concerned about what their dogs are eating,” Cindy Darmstandler said. “That’s their family member and Americans spend a lot of money on their pets. They want to know that they’re getting a quality product.”
To that end, the husband and wife team took to the kitchen and started experimenting with their own recipes. It didn’t take long to find a winning combination that was not only healthy and tasty, but it was made in the USA, which has become very important to the couple.
“The problem is that we don’t have any control over the regulations in China,” Cindy said. “And it’s important to educate people about the dangers of imported chicken.”
By raising awareness, the couple is hoping to give other pet owners the opportunity to make an informed decision about what they offer their animals.
“It’s very rewarding to know that we’re helping pets to be healthy so that there’s no suffering needlessly at the hands of tainted meat,” Cindy said, adding, “It’s important to support Made In America products. By doing so, we support American jobs and our own economy.
They proudly slap stickers on the mailing boxes that proclaim the product USA made and as of recently, that’s a lot of stickers for the company that started out as a “pet project” has blossomed into a thriving business for the couple.
“We’ve had Internet sales over a year now and we’re moving into high-end pet stores in New York, New Jersey, Colorado and San Francisco,” Tom Darmstandler said of their side business. “It’s become a pretty popular product.”
A San Diego store sold out in two weeks, Tom Darmstandler shared.
A customer from Michigan, Angie, shared this on the website, “We received the sample of Kona’s Chip’s, yesterday, and Sugarbear loves them! We are definitely interested in being a Kona’s Club member and will be ordering a larger package of Kona’s Chips, today!”
The secret to their success seems to be the care they’ve put into their product.
“We use USDA chicken breasts made from human-grade chicken,” Tom said. “And we do about 9,000 to 10,000 shipments a month.”
And surprisingly, it’s not only animals who munch on the treats.
“Hunters have been purchasing our product for hunting trips because it’s just dehydrated meat,” Cynthia said.
While Kona’s Chips is making an impression throughout the United States, locally, the product is just starting to catch on but word is traveling fast.
Currently, Raley’s is seriously considering adding Kona’s Chips to their inventory as is the local pet store, The Oakdale Pet Station.
In addition to dehydrated chicken products, Kona’s Chips has added a line of all-natural joint supplements for use instead of steroids.
For a full list of the company’s products, or to purchase Kona’s Chips, you can go to their website at www.konaschips.com or ask for it by name at the local stores.