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Swansea firm aims to be ‘top dog’ in pet food

From left - Jane Bygate, Duke, Rob Barber Tata Steel subsidiary UKSE and James Bygate. Credit: Nick Treharne

As dog ownership in the UK soars to new heights, the doggy-treat market is booming – and a Welsh business is aiming to benefit from the trend.

Swansea-based Dewkes, set up during the Covid pandemic by James and Jane Bygate, is investing £150,000 in the business and has ambitious plans for growth in the next three years aiming to create ten jobs.

Dewkes recently set up its second outlet in the city, and is now moving into the UK wholesale market with its point-of-sale presentations to satisfy canine cravings.

“The hospitality industry is picking up on the benefits of creating the right experience for dog owners and their pets, and finding there are substantial rewards,” said Mr Bygate.

He added that the company presently has a turnover of £500,000 and is aiming to double this to £1 million in the next year, increasing the staff of seven to 11 in that time; within three years, it is hoped to bring the workforce up to 17 to cope with higher demand as turnover rises further.

Dewkes has a shop in The Mumbles, and now a doggy-café welcoming four-legged friends and their owners in Sketty.

Dewkes supplies counter-top selections of quality, tasty treats to pubs, cafes, hotels, holiday destinations and many other establishments. “Businesses find that looking after both owners and their dogs too can be very good for them and this is why demand for the products is growing so quickly. As we put it, we are looking to cater for dogs with a social life!”

The £150,000 investment package, half of which comprises funds from private investors, has been cornerstoned by Tata Steel subsidiary UKSE in the form of a £75,000 loan. Rob Barber, UKSE Area Manager, said: “We were very impressed by the business plan which demonstrates a route to growth and the potential to create lasting jobs. We wish James and Jane every success as they grow the business and we are delighted to be providing support.”

UKSE works in former steel areas to help create a strong and sustainable economy, providing equity and loan packages to businesses with growth potential, as well as offering high quality business accommodation at their centres in Cardiff and Ebbw Vale.

Dewkes has received support from the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP) funded through Welsh Government. This included mentoring and specialist advice on market analysis and planning, coaching and developing a customer relationship management system.

Richard Morris of the Excelerator Consortium, which delivers the AGP programme said: “Seeing Dewkes flourish is a testament to the power of strategic guidance and targeted support. Their success in the burgeoning pet product market is a clear indicator of the Dewkes leadership team’s quality, strategic acumen and market responsiveness.”

The size of the market for pet products has grown exponentially as a result of Lockdown, with some 34% of British homes now having a dog, and is estimated to be worth £1.6 billion and increasing.

New clients for the business include food service providers such as Castell Howell Foods, Pembrokeshire Foods, Diverse Fine Foods as well as Cotswold Fayre.  These are in addition to other contracts with Haven Holidays and Red Funnel Ferries. “Our products are sold around the UK and with this investment from UKSE in particular we are looking to increase our share of the wholesale market,” added Mr Bygate.