Changing Lives, One Pet at a Time
Joey Herrick, founder and president of Lucy Pet Products, discusses how the sales of his company’s products—including a game-changing new cat litter—help to solve the problem of pet overpopulation.
Lucy Pet Products president Joey Herrick, chief veterinary officer Dr. Karen Halligan and executive vice president Rick Rockhill.
Pet Business: What inspired the creation of the Lucy Pet Foundation and Lucy Pet Products?
Joey Herrick: I was the founder of Natural Balance Pet Foods, and for years while I had the company, I donated millions of pounds of food to animal rescue groups. I believe these groups are doing all the work; they are the ones going to the shelters and taking animals off death row and lowering euthanasia rates, so I’ve always supported that. When I sold Natural Balance, I didn’t have food to give anymore, so I decided that I had better do something else to help stop pets from being euthanized. Eighty-thousand dogs and cats are killed each week in the United States—that’s an unbelievable number.
So I started the Lucy Pet Foundation, and I hired Dr. Karen Halligan as chief veterinary officer. She is a great surgeon, and she also appears on a lot of T.V. shows like Kelly & Michael as an expert. I hired her to head up the foundation, and to date, we’ve done over 10,000 spay/neuters and vaccinations. We’ve really kind of proven ourselves here in southern California, so much so that the City of Los Angeles actually just gave us a $500,000-per-year contract to do another 10,000 animals over the next two years. It’s a nice acknowledgement of what the foundation has been doing.
Once I got about $1.8 million into it, I decided I couldn’t keep funding the foundation by myself. I’m not a fundraising guy, though; I don’t really know how to do that yet, but I do know how to make products. Now, I have a non-compete [from the sale of Natural Balance], so I can’t even think about doing any kind of food products until July 2016. Instead, I came out with these great shampoo products and put them in beautiful packaging with metal bottles. And just like with the foundation, I’m not taking any salary from Lucy Pet Products. The money goes to fund the Lucy Pet Foundation.
PB: Tell us a little about the grooming products line from Lucy Pet Products.
Herrick: Our grooming products use natural ingredients that smell good and work well. We offer shampoo and leave-in conditioner in six different fragrances, like The Big Apple and Surfin’ Jack Coconut. They are all great for the skin and coat, and the leave-in conditioner can also be used to keep a pet fresh between baths.
PB: We hear that Lucy Pet Products is expanding into the cat litter category. What made you decide to move in this new direction, and what will be your initial offering in the category?
Herrick: Somebody very high up in the pet industry asked me if I would be willing to use my creativity to do something for cat litter. So, I decided to give it some thought. The first thing I did was work with Betsy Martin [Lucy Pet Products’ director of marketing and development], who has been with me in every endeavor over the past 20 years. We created the most beautiful packaging that you’ve ever seen. There is no package like it on the market, so we patented the bag worldwide. It is a two-handled pouch bag with a spout, so it’s easy to handle. And aside from that, it’s just gorgeous. It features Ricky the cat, a cat that we rescued out of a high-kill shelter.
I showed the packaging to Jim Heim [president of business development for Central Garden & Pet], and he said, “This is phenomenal, I’ve never seen anything like it. What a great concept. I know some people you need to meet—they need you, and you need them.”
As a result, I and my team ended up flying to Houston, Texas, to meet with Dow and show them what we had. They loved what we showed them and flew out to Los Angeles two weeks later for another meeting. Lucy Pet Products got the exclusive for their new product, which stops ammonia from forming in the litter box. It’s going to change the category. A lot of people don’t realize that the presence of ammonia actually starts affecting their cats way before their human noses can even smell it.
Our new litter is called Cat’s Incredible, and it’s launching at Global Pet Expo. In fact, it’s launching globally at Global—we already have orders from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong.
We have four SKUs: 14-lb. and 25-lb. sizes in scented and unscented. For the scented, we use a very light lavender. I know that some cat owners worry that their pet won’t like scented litter, but we have tested our product a lot and we have 100 percent acceptance from cats. The reason a lot of cats don’t like scented litter is because most companies have to put in so much scent because they’re trying to mask the ammonia odor in the box. We don’t have to try to mask that odor because the ammonia doesn’t even form with our product. So, we can use a very light scent that cats actually like.