Interview With Pankaj Hurria, the founder of Tiana Cat Food

Find why Pankaj Hurria was inspired to launch Tiana Cat Food, the world’s first halal-friendly cat food range made with best-in-class, human-grade ingredients.

What’s your career background? 

I can call upon an MBA and over 20 years of experience across an array of procurement, supply chain, operations and strategy roles in industries as diverse as automotive, consulting and manufacturing. 

For the last eight years my focus has been the fast-evolving pet food sector, which includes four years as Senior Lead Buyer at zooplus AG with responsibility for procurement contracts with lead players including Nestle, Mars, Royal Canin and MPM.

Flourishing trends like ‘pet humanisation’ means that today’s category is ripe for a number of classy ‘minority interest’/artisanal operations to bring some much-needed NEW vitality, energy and rigour to a food sector historically dominated by ‘play it safe’ multinationals. As with human food & drink before, there’s a growing clamour for innovation, vibrancy and ‘raising the bar’ quality, because one size fits all solutions no longer suffice. 

What’s the thinking behind Tiana that allows is to stand out from the crowd?

My idea hinges around creating the world’s first halal-friendly cat food range made with best-in-class, human-grade ingredients.

An opportune conversation with a close friend’s mother sparked my imagination when she asked if such an offering would ever be made available because she and number of her friends had to spend many hours tracking down fish-themed products or assembling hom-cooked alternatives made with appropriate meats that might unwittingly be light in essential, feline nutrients.

Thanks to the snowballing ‘pet humanisation’ effect, cat food aisles now embrace every imaginable food minority interest from grain-free, BARF, bio-organic and vegan to all-manner of dietary specific propositions (hypo-allergenic, digestion, poor joints…). Halal-friendly offerings for an increasingly influential group of well-educated, millennial/professional with liberal religious leanings makes perfect sense. 

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome so far?

Nothing you wouldn’t have heard before. Thanks to Covid there were unwelcome delays everywhere from certification approvals and accreditations through to raw material and packaging availability. In many instances costs spiralled, resulting in the constant reviewing and re-cutting of financials – very stressful! 

And your proudest moment to date?

There are actually three:

  1. When we were just testing the website and within 10 minutes of going live we secured 5 customers orders, which not only meant that customers were watching us but that we’d fuelled their imagination.
  2. We are also carving a path in planet-friendly freeze-dried food which means cumbersome moisture isn’t needlessly shipped from pillar-to-post (a big saver of finite world resources). 
  3. Securing PIF (Pet Industry Federation) endorsement as they are a major force for good in the UK’s meticulously scrutinized pet food sector.

Who is a typical Tiana loyalist?

Professional, moderately religious women who want to feed their cats healthy, nutritionally-savvy, halal food which aligns with their faith and environmentally aware aspirations.

Why is now the right moment for Tiana?

It aligns with the key movements in pet food, namely pet humanisation, premiumisation and companionship bonding, trends that only got stronger over lockdown. This is the missing puzzle piece that Muslim ‘pet parents’ have been waiting for. 

Has lockdown changed your thinking?

In many ways Lockdown has underpinned our beliefs with a real surge in cat ownership especially in urban areas. With regards to work practice the ‘new normal’ has demonstrated different yet equally effective ways of working: virtual meetings, virtual supplier visits, the growing importance of online sales channels…

What’s your top piece of advice for entrepreneurs?

Have patience and persistence. As a founder or brand owner owner you want to do everything at lighting speed and expect same from others. HOWEVER their priorities are different and you have to keep this reality front of mind. Manage your expectations but fight your corner with all you can because SMEs have never had a better time to make their mark.

Where will you be 18 months down the line?

We intend to launch throughout Europe within this timeframe and have a vibrant loyalist heartland. We will certainly have aligned with a number of leading pet food retailers. WATCH THIS SPACE! 

Find out more about Tiana Cat Food.