An Interview with Our First Ever Employee Laurette
Want to know what life is like as an Honest Kitchen employee?
As part of our new employee interview series, we sat down and interviewed our first ever employee Laurette. She gave us some insight into what it’s been like being with The Honest Kitchen since the very beginning, what it is she does and how she plays an instrumental role in the creation of our recipes.
Tell me a bit about what you do, and how your role/job has evolved over time.
I make sure that what’s on top of the box is true. I procure all our ingredients and improve them as we go. Lucy puts her heart and soul into what we guarantee our customers on top of the box, and my job is to make sure that we deliver that to them.
I started with THK as the first official employee. Charlie, my Dalmatian, ate one of the first buckets. My friends owned the first store (Noah’s ark) that carried THK, and they gave me a bucket to try. I was finishing school and working, and heard from my friend that Lucy had just had a baby, and needed some help. I had never met her, but I showed up and started working. At first, she could only pay me for 10 hours a week, so I had to figure out a way to make that work. But I knew she was going after something good, so I stuck with it.
I’ve had a lot of titles. I worked my way into my role and figured out what fit me best. I’m now in quality control (I work with customer service on this), ingredient procurement, and new product development. I figured out that quality and honesty were the aspects that fit me best.
I studied biology in school, and have a background in holistic medicine.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Making sure that everything is in order, making sure the ship runs smoothly. Quality control isn’t my favorite part, but knowing that our quality control is handled and in order is.
What was it like being THK’s first employee?
I’ve always been valued as a team member. I’ve been there through thick and thin.
I don’t think I knew what was happening. I guess we just kept doing things right. It’s been an amazing ride. We are now paving the way in the industry which is really cool.
Beyond the obvious, what’s the biggest change you have noticed over the last 11 years?
I’ve really admired watching Charlie and Lucy “grow up” and how smart everyone has become. It’s a really inspiring team.
What about your job or your work over the last 11 years are you most proud of?
I have four projects that I am really proud of.
- No ingredients from China
- Happy Chickens – We were told we couldn’t do this, and that there wouldn’t be enough chicken, or that no one would work with us to make this happen. We kept getting told “no,” but I learned that you shouldn’t give up just because someone says you can’t do something. We got it done despite being told we couldn’t.
- No GMOs – I was really proud of getting our Non-GMO certification and getting a seal of approval to back up our ingredients.
- Duck – Again, we were told this couldn’t be done, and that we couldn’t add duck to our diets. However, just like our Petaluma “Happy” Chickens, we persevered and got it done.
What’s your best THK memory?
The first trade shows were really memorable with just Charlie, Lucy, and I. Moving our office downtown was also very memorable.
What do you think makes THK unique from other pet food brands and other companies in general?
Authenticity – not doing things because the pet food industry says we have to. We are working for the health of pets, that’s our main driver. There are no gimmicks here.
What are your dogs’ favorite recipes?
They’ll eat any of them, but Charlie is a little more sensitive. He’s an Embark man.
If you were a dog, what breed would you be?
I’d be a flat coated retriever. They’re smart, agile, and a little goofy/comical, but in a more understated way than Golden Retrievers.
If you were a dog, what THK recipe would you eat?
Who creates/is involved in recipe production?
Lucy, Laurette, and Chris.
Laurette “keeps it real” – knows what is feasible and what we just can’t pull off.
How do you decide what ingredients go in each recipe?
We have a list of existing ingredients and of optional ingredients. Ordering an ingredient is more cost efficient if we order more of it, so when we add in a new ingredient, we have to determine whether we are able to use it across a few products.
There is also the food safety aspect, and we can get held up with regulatory issues. If a certain ingredient is not AAFCO approved for pet food, we will have a hard time trying to use it. Each state also has specific guidelines, so some ingredients are not allowed in certain states.
How long does it usually take to develop a new recipe?
A new recipe is fairly easy to develop since we already know how to do food. It might take around four months to develop a new recipe (though it takes longer to launch). We really just have to determine what percentage of protein and fat we want, or what other aspects we want to hit, and then figure out what ingredients to use to get there. A new product, on the other hand, takes much longer. We are pretty much starting from scratch working out how to perfect it, which is a much longer process.
How much taste testing is involved before a recipe is set in stone/launched?
Laurette tests ingredients individually, but tests the whole recipes more rarely.
Do the office dogs/humans take part in the taste testing?
The dogs are very involved. They are the initial testers.
Do some tests just completely flop?
Not really. We have a pretty good idea of what will work.
How do you decide what ratio of foods to include?
We have a target protein and fat percentage, and then we know based off of other recipes how to hit that. Then it’s just a matter of what other ingredients we want to add.
Who is the nutritional expert?
Lucy has a nutritional degree, and we also have vet staff consultants.
Do you develop one recipe at a time, or do you decide on a new line to produce?
It depends. Some recipes are released on their own to complete a set, other times we do a whole new line.
Is there a most popular recipe?