Honest to Goodness
Lucy Postins, founder and CEO of The Honest Kitchen, discusses how her company is raising the bar in the pet health food category.
Pet Business: How is the pet nutrition category performing in pet specialty retail? How does The Honest Kitchen support its retailers in the category?
Lucy Postins: Overall, The Honest Kitchen is growing at about 40 percent year over year, and the lion’s share of our business is at pet specialty retail. We’re fortunate to be on the leading edge of the ‘health foods for pets’ trend, which is continuing to gain traction as more and more people become aware of the links between a less-processed, whole-food diet and their pets’ improved health.
We have a wide variety of programs to support pet specialty stores. We produce nationwide promotions such as our Honest Pets calendar and the holiday scratch and sniff book, which was featured in several top business publications including Fast Company and AdAge. These fun, unique promos have a physical in-store presence, usually with a shipper, as well as funded social media support to drive consumers to stores. Our Employee Feeder Program, Good Food Gurus, is highly popular and offers a way for a store’s staff to try our food for free and then purchase at a discount so they can speak with customers first-hand about the positive effects of our foods on their own pets.
PB: What are the driving trends in pet nutrition currently, and how is The Honest Kitchen responding to those trends?
Postins: Some of the most prominent trends we’re seeing include limited ingredient diets (LIDs), which are much sought after by pet owners who have animals with multiple food sensitivities. Our Minimalist line of LID foods contains just six whole food ingredients, so we’re really raising the bar on what it means to be ‘limited ingredient.’
Toppers are also a huge trend, and we launched our new Proper Toppers a couple of months ago. Proper Toppers are 100-percent human grade, like all our foods, and made from 90 percent meat plus healthy superfoods like pumpkin, apples, blueberries and chard, so they’re an excellent option to boost both taste and nutrition, especially for finicky pets.
PB: How does The Honest Kitchen set itself apart in the pet food space?
Postins: The most unique attribute of The Honest Kitchen is the fact that our foods are actually human-food grade, and we have permission from the FDA to say human grade on our labels. All our ingredients are sourced directly from the human-food supply chain, and our products are made in a facility that also produces things like breakfast cereals, bakery mixes and similar human-food products. The other key thing is that our products are dehydrated. Dehydration, sometimes called air drying, gently removes the moisture from our fresh, raw, whole-food ingredients to create a compact, lightweight product that’s rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants and has a positive effect on pet health compared with conventional, heavily processed products.
PB: What is new and exciting from The Honest Kitchen?
Postins: We’re working on a new Proper Toppers recipe to be launched later this year, as well as a new line of meat treats, which we’re very excited about. I’m also publishing a book with Rodale, which comes out on October 11. It’s called Dog Obsessed, and it’s a beautifully illustrated, lighthearted lifestyle guide for dog owners who really want to care for their pups as well as—or in some cases actually better than—their human families. The book includes more than 45 make-at-home recipes, including a dozen meals you can actually share with your dog, including wine pairings. It’s also bursting with vet-approved health and nutrition tips and fun information on traveling with your dog, enjoying the holidays, and dog-park etiquette. The foreword is written by my friend, actress and comedian Jane Lynch, and it’s been an incredibly fun project to work on over the past year.