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Random Thoughts

  • Tastes like Chicken...exploring the world of "human grade" label claims

    Since pet industry professionals have all but exhausted the natural vs. organic vs. conventional discussion, it is time to mercilessly deconstruct another buzzword in the growing pet food segment: Human grade. What does it really mean for a pet food to be human grade? Is it really okay for humans to eat pet food!? These questions apparently were too tempting for one news reporter to ignore. BloombergBusinessweek contributor, Teddy Wayne decided to investigate gourmet pet foods with human grade label claims by tasting them, of course. I heard about this story via PetfoodIndustry.com, which always provides great (pet) food for thought.

    Let's get one thing clear. Like many terms used on pet food packaging, "human grade" has no real legal definition in the pet food industry. Comforting, isn't it? Not so much. Unfortunately, this lack of label oversight once again creates a lot of room for companies to make less than true claims about their ingredients and production processes. What do you think of when you read the term human grade? To me it is simple. It means using food that you could and would be able to find in the common pantry. Things like flour, real meat, honey, peas, carrots, etc. Whole ingredients with real nutritional benefits - that is human grade. No elusive "natural flavoring" or animal by-products. It also means using production methods and adhering to cleanliness standards that would be acceptable for making food for human consumption.

    In the world of pet food labeling, companies use the claim "human grade" to inform the consumer about the safety of the product in question. After all, if it is good enough for humans, how can it be harmful for pets? That is the idea behind the marketing, anyway. But just because some healthy pet foods are made with human grade ingredients does not mean that humans should be eating them! Teddy Wayne seemed to miss the mark on that concept, unless his entire article was meant to be facetious. It's difficult to say. Pairing gourmet pet foods with fine wines was a great use of hyperbole, but serves no real purpose in the context of assessing the value of different gourmet pet foods.

    Who knows what Teddy Wayne's intentions were with his article in BloombergBusinessweek. Whether his article is sincere or not doesn't matter so much in the grand scheme of things. What does matter for you, the pet owner, is the fact that looking more closely at human grade label claims is becoming increasingly important. We encourage you to do your research, contact the company, ask questions and demand answers.

    At The Organic Hound Co., we are proud to offer USDA certified organic dog treats. By making the effort to have our treats recognized by the USDA as certified organic, we don't have to spend any time defending our label claims. In fact, I would consider our organic certification the best marketing investment we have made so far!

  • Ticks the season (and fleas and mosquitoes too!)

    Along with the unseasonably warm temperatures we experienced here in New Hampshire last week, we also saw some disgruntled office workers who would have rather been outside, flower and tree buds heeding the call from Mother Nature, and of course, the early arrival of tick season! If you haven't already, now is the time to call your dog's vet and stock up on flea and tick preventative.

    The lack of significant snow accumulation this winter combined with the blast of warm temperatures lured all of the pesky summer critters out of their winter retreats, which means a long season ahead for ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. Jess and I took advantage of the warm weather by romping around in the field last week with Oreo, a rescue pit mix. Little did we know, the ticks were all out enjoying the field too! I stood up after a brief wrestling session with Oreo and noticed a tick crawling up my arm. Not ten minutes later, I plucked another one off me. They didn't waste a moment!

    We didn't have any more tick sightings after our play in the field, but it was an early reminder that we need to get all the dogs treated before letting them wander too far into the woods or tall grass. In order to minimize your dog's exposure to harmful diseases like Lyme disease and heartworm, it is a good idea to use a flea and tick preventative that also repels and kills mosquitoes.

    There is no reason to avoid the outdoors this spring and summer. You can enjoy as many walks, hikes, swims, and jogs with your dog as you'd like, but just make sure you conduct regular flea and tick inspections on yourself and your dog after being outside. As long as you stay aware and keep your dog up to date on their flea and tick medication, you will have many adventure tales to share with your friends and family!

  • Ordinary dogs doing extraordinary things

    I am continually fascinated by dogs and their ability to learn new things and adapt to different situations. I stumbled upon a news article today in USA Today from last January that featured a woman suffering from a severe form of celiac disease and her dog - a 2 year old male Beauceron. The young woman can be sick for weeks if the slightest trace of gluten enters her body. So what does she do to ensure that she does not expose herself to gluten? She relies on Elias, her massive 100lb Beauceron, to detect gluten in foods for her. That's right - Elias is trained to sniff out gluten in products to protect her from experiencing painful gluten intolerance attacks on her system.

    Because gluten comes in so many different forms and is widely used in a variety of products, both food and non food, it wasn't an easy task teaching Elias to detect all these different forms of gluten. But, sure enough, whenever this woman is about to eat anything she will let Elias have a good sniff of it first. Despite carefully scrutinizing labels, there is always a risk of cross-contamination if products are not manufactured in a dedicated gluten free facility. If the product is safe, Elias simply looks away. However, if he detects gluten in the product, he will pull the item away from her!

    I just found this story so cool and amazing. It really proves there is no limit to what you can teach a dog to do. I had a similar feeling a couple of weeks ago when I was stopped at a traffic light at a fairly big intersection in Keene. As I waited for my light to change, a woman crossed the intersection with her seeing eye dog. I watched her approach the intersection and stop abruptly when her dog sat down because it was not their time to cross. Then, all of a sudden, the dog gently pulled her forward and they began to walk. The whole time they walked, the dog was turning his head from side to side, undoubtedly checking the intersection for oncoming cars. He knew that even though they had the right-of-way to walk across the street, it didn't necessarily mean that they were out of harm's way.

    Seeing the complete trust this woman placed in her service dog was a truly incredible thing to witness. All dogs are special, but there is something about dogs trained to perform a particular task that is mind blowing. It really gives you an appreciation for just how intelligent and able these animals are. Do you know an amazing dog? We'd love to hear about it! Comment here or visit The Organic Hound Co.'s Facebook or Google+ page to tell us about an ordinary dog who performs extraordinary tasks on a daily basis.

  • Hot, Fresh Dog Treats!

    It's almost difficult to picture a company's website, flyer, brochure, or even TV commercial without some reference to or mention of Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc. These things have become staples of marketing and advertising, and you have to ask what did companies do before social media mayhem hit the mainstream? Well, for one company - Krispy Kreme - it was simple: Make a good product and rely on your loyal customers to spread the word to their friends. Did you know that Krispy Kreme built up its iconic brand almost entirely on word-of-mouth marketing?

    Perhaps the red neon "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign in the window of Krispy Kreme shops could be considered the first instance of viral marketing. I know I am not alone when I say I have made illegal U-turns all in the name of hot glazed doughnuts! While social media has taken the idea of word-of-mouth marketing and set it ablaze, I like the thought of companies basing their success on quality products, customer service and memorable experiences. Krispy Kreme has done just that. And while Dunkin Donuts might dominate the airwaves and the billboards, I argue that it is hard to compete with a hot glazed doughnut fresh from the oven.

    Hot glazed doughnuts have nothing to do with dog treats, but Krispy Kreme's commitment to its mission has everything to do with running a good business, which is what we strive for with The Organic Hound Co. Being a small business means accomplishing a lot with very few resources. It is inspiring to read about a company like Krispy Kreme that grew mainly because people like them, their product, their atmosphere, and their brand. Certainly, a company that built a reputation on word-of-mouth has only benefited from social media, but on some level their social media presence is merely an extension of the marketing tool they helped to establish.

    We depend a lot on word-of-mouth marketing (now if only the dogs could talk!), and while we may never reach the cult status of a company like Krispy Kreme, we are definitely grateful for the support we get from our customers. They may not realize how much they are helping our business when they recommend our organic dog treats to a friend, but I assure you that we recognize it, and appreciate it. We'll keep making healthy, high quality dog biscuits as long as people keeping spreading the word!

  • Ingredient Breakdown: The benefit of coconut flour in organic dog treats

    As the commercial pet food industry continues to humanize food and treats for dogs, it is important for dog owners to really understand what's necessary and what isn't when it comes to their dog's diet. While dog food products now contain many ingredients found in common human foods, dogs and humans don't always share the same nutritional needs. For this reason, we spent a lot of time researching each and every ingredient we decided to use in our organic dog treats. For us, it came down to one idea: balance.

    Flour is the foundation of all dog treats, and if you have ever really looked, there are a lot of different flours for dog treat makers to choose from! Since flour comprises so much of the treat, it is important that this key dog treat ingredient is derived from wholesome sources. We chose oat and brown rice flours as the basis for our pumpkin ginger and peanut butter treats because of the superior health benefits associated with each. We could have easily stopped there, but because our intention was always to create a dog treat with exceptional nutritional qualities, we decided to add even more good stuff in the form of coconut flour.

    What makes coconut flour so good for dogs? The best thing about coconut flour is all the dietary fiber it has to offer. The right amount of fiber in your dog's diet will contribute to optimal gastrointestinal health. Let's put it this way - fiber will keep your dog's system moving! Just make sure you don't over do it when it comes to dietary fiber in your dog's diet. While the positive benefits of fiber have been recognized by medical professionals in the pet industry, fiber is currently not considered an essential part of a dog's diet.

    Another reason we love coconut flour so much is because it is 100% gluten free. This means that it is an exceptional food for dogs who struggle with a wheat allergy. As you know, a dog's system was not designed to process grains, which explains the recent emphasis on grain and gluten free diets. Introducing grains to commercial pet foods resulted in the discovery of gluten intolerance and grain sensitivity in dogs. In fact, grain allergies are one the leading causes of vet visits!

    Finally, dogs seem to LOVE the taste of this mildly sweet flour. Aside from all the nutritional benefits of coconut flour, it adds a distinct, irresistible flavor to our pumpkin ginger and peanut butter flax dog treats.

  • If It's Not Broken...

    We are running low on one of our favorite body products - Burt's Bees Thoroughly Therapeutic Honey and Shea body butter. So naturally I went on to the Burt's Bees website to order some more. This is a product Jess introduced me to a couple of years ago and I instantly loved it - the texture, the scent, it all blended together to create an amazing body butter. I knew it was a wonderful product, so I was shocked to see such a poor user rating for the product on the site - 2 out of 5 stars, to be exact!

     

    When I started reading the user reviews, I was even more surprised to see just how seriously people felt about this product. And what was the source of their contempt, you ask? Well, the customers were up in arms about the fact that Burt's Bees had changed the formula of their beloved honey and shea body butter, and then had the gall to call it a "new and improved" formula. At first I thought it was just a few disgruntled customers expressing dissatisfaction, but as I read on, I found every single review submitted for the product over the last 6 months or so was a negative one...I mean really negative. People were "disappointed" in the new product and most customers described it as "awful." Every single person conveyed the same message to Burt's Bees: why mess with a great product that people love?

     

    Since no one from Burt's Bees has jumped on the forum yet to quell the customer uprising, we don't know exactly why the company decided to change the formula of this ever popular body butter. We can only speculate that it was a cost or sourcing issue - that would make the most sense, anyway. The fact that Burt's Bees is turning a deaf ear and blind eye to this topic of extreme customer concern is baffling to us.

     

    Observing this entire body butter debacle on the Burt's Bees customer review forum brought some important issues to light for us; issues that are always present, but can sometimes get lost in the daily shuffle. I am referring to the mission and value statements established by most business owners in the very beginning. You know what I am talking about - the lofty statements that claim to never compromise quality for cost or customer satisfaction for a higher bottom line.

     

    It seems as though as some businesses grow, so does the distance between their initial intent and their status quo. I can't even begin to imagine the types of challenges that accompany strong growth in business, but I also can't imagine sacrificing your ideals to achieve a certain status. I think Burt's Bees would have been better off discontinuing the product as opposed to upsetting a segment of their loyal customer base. That's just my opinion, though.

     

    As we continue to try to establish The Organic Hound Co. as a leading manufacturer of organic dog treats, we try to remain aware of the greater impact each one of our actions and decisions will have. While our ultimate objective is for dogs to love our treats, our other goal is to make a good impression on the people who own the dogs and buy the treats - you know, the ones with opposable thumbs who can submit feedback and tell us how we're doing!

  • Transcending Trend Status: Organic dog treats and other high end pet products become mainstream

    Once thought of as a temporary trend in pet parenting, premium pet products have undoubtedly surpassed trend status and created a paradigm shift in the pet industry. The shift in the United States towards healthier pet products has been steadily rising since around 2007, when thousands of cases of tainted pet foods were reported by many popular companies. This event was an eye-opener for pet owners as well as the regulatory divisions of state and federal governments that oversee the production of commercial pet foods.

    All of a sudden, consumers began questioning the origin of their pet foods, toys, and accessories. They started demanding answers and accountability. More importantly, they sought alternatives to the mass produced commercial pet foods that dominated the market. Combining the disillusionment felt by consumers with their desire to increase the quality of the pet products they provided their four legged friends set the stage for natural and organic pet products to enter the market and make a big impact.

    Now, for every conventional pet product available, there is a healthier, natural, organic, or eco-friendly alternative. These premium alternatives come with a higher price tag, but it doesn't seem to matter much to pet parents. For whatever reason -whether it is to reduce their own carbon footprint or to provide their pets with healthy food and toy options - pet owners are content to pay a little more for higher quality items.

    When we decided to enter the pet product industry with our certified organic dog treats, we didn't do so to be part of the gold rush. We established The Organic Hound Co. on principles that go beyond the bottom line. While we hoped pet owners would continue to recognize the value of high quality dog treats, we weren't entirely sure if the natural and organic pet market was approaching was going to burst at any moment. Time has proven that natural and organic products for pets are here to stay. This healthy lifestyle for dogs is becoming widely accepted as the norm and we are really proud to be a part of it.

    As the benefits of feeding natural and organic food and treats become more known, we are interested in hearing why you all choose the healthy alternative for your pet. We encourage you to comment below and tell us your reasons for raising a natural or organic pet. We'd love to hear from you!

  • The secret ingredient in any good organic dog treat: Honesty

    In the latest issue of Pet food Industry magazine, there is a really good article about the conflicting interests that exist between the regulatory and marketing departments in major pet food companies. The former is responsible for making sure pet foods contain safe ingredients for pets. The latter, on the other hand, has one goal in mind. That is to make consumers believe that their company's pet foods contain ingredients that your pets simply can't live without.

     

    Major companies that make products for both humans and dogs are constantly thinking up new and innovative ways to draw in consumers and keep them coming back. And with increasing competition, this is becoming a much more challenging task. A plight of pet food companies ,in particular, is making sure that the marketing claims on their labels actually measure up in their pet food formulas. This is also true for companies producing consumables for humans, but the key difference is that the FDA has been watching manufacturers of human products much longer than they have been keeping an eye on the pet companies.

     

    The article in Pet Food Industry magazine looks at the tug of war that can occur between the regulatory arm and the marketing arm. The author jokingly alludes to the fact that the members of the marketing department of a major pet food company refer to the regulatory division as the "Department of Sales Prevention." This is because the common marketing practice of embellishing the truth through fancy language manipulation doesn't mesh so well with the duties of regulatory personnel.

     

    It was interesting to read how these two vastly different departments must meet in the middle whenever a new pet food product is being developed. The author of the article mentions that in one company the head of the regulatory division and the of the marketing department were the same person. He suggests this might make it nearly impossible for that person to make objective decisions about the ingredients being used and the subsequent claims and benefits of those ingredients, as presented on the label.

     

    But, in the case of smaller pet food and treat manufacturers, the person making the formulas is the same person producing the marketing materials. Because of the shoestring budgets on which small companies operate, this is unavoidable. Sharing these responsibilities, however, does not have to result in conflicted messaging or a misleading brand, as long as your are being honest.

     

    When we were developing the flavor profiles for our organic dog treats, there wasn't a single thing that we let get in the way of producing a healthy, great tasting dog treat. We devoted almost a year to research and development before finalizing our treats. There wasn't a big marketing budget, so our treats needed to speak for themselves.

     

    What it all really comes down to in the world of the competitive dog treat industry is being honest. If you are honest about using high quality ingredients that are good for dogs, then you don't need to depend so much on lofty marketing claims to sell your product. You can tell the truth, have confidence in your message, and pet owners will listen.

  • No News is Good News...

    Well, I admit to committing the cardinal sin of blogging—letting the blog become stagnant and stale! How could I do this, you ask? It's pretty easy to forget about blogging when everything is going fairly well for us at The Organic Hound Co. headquarters. We don't have any big news and we don't have any bad news. All in all, the last few months here at the bakery have been business as usual. Baking dog treats, filling orders, picking up a couple of new retail shops, networking with other local business owners about upcoming events in the spring and summer.

    This is all stuff that happens on a daily basis around here, but is it really blog worthy? I mean to us, it is all just part of running our business so it doesn't quite seem so newsworthy. I am thinking of ways to make the blog more engaging. I guess you could say it is a resolution of sorts for the upcoming year. This will be the space to discuss all things dog. Not just what is happening in the Organic Hound Co. bakery. Sure, you will be the first to know when something big happens, but I think this space would be best served talking about dog stuff.

    Just because we bake organic dog treats doesn't mean we have to talk about it all the time! The reason we bake treats is because we love dogs and we take pride in offering a healthy snack that our local dog owning community can feel good about. It's about time we starting talking about all the other reasons we love dogs.

    For example, I was reading an incredible story in the NY Times yesterday about how a golden retriever therapy dog helped a severely disabled child start expressing his thoughts and feelings. Humans tried to reach this child, who suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, for many years, and all it took was the unconditional love and support of this gentle, caring dog to come along and give the child confidence to face the world. A world that had previously been a scary and threatening place.

    Now that is blog worthy! Check out the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/magazine/wonder-dog.html

  • Happy New Year

    We haven't updated the blog in awhile, which can only mean one thing...Knicks basketball is back and we have been way too excited to focus on anything else! Just kidding (or am I?). By the way, did anybody catch that game against the Pistons last night? It looks like the Knicks are really hitting their stride…sorry about that. I got a little distracted! What it really means is this was our first holiday season baking organic dog treats and we wanted to be sure that all of our retailers were well stocked for the busy holiday shopping season.  It’s been fun and busy – just the way we like it!

    It is crazy to think that in just last week we welcomed 2012. I definitely am starting to subscribe to the belief that time goes by a lot faster as you get older. Or maybe it is simply that time really does fly when you’re having fun. Either way, where did the past year go?

    As we gear up for 2012, there won’t be many changes here at The Organic Hound Co. headquarters. While we officially started the company in 2010, last year was really our first year in production. We really still feel like newcomers in the vast industry of organic dog treats, but we are committed to growing our company in a way that is true to our mission, beliefs, and values. That means it might take us a little longer to get to where we’re going, but we’re okay with that. We would rather take our time and make the right decisions than grow too fast and be left with our heads spinning.

    With that being said, every business needs goals in order to succeed. In 2011, our biggest goal was to obtain our USDA organic certification, which we officially did in July! We are still figuring out what we would like to accomplish in 2012. Maybe we’ll develop something new for your dogs to enjoy. You never know! No matter what we do in 2012, you can always count on the fact that our organic dog treats are a healthy, eco-friendly snack for your dog!

    Happy New Year everyone!

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