Pet Age spoke with Joey Herrick, founder of the Lucy Pet Foundation, and Andre Argenton, global research and development director for performance materials and chemicals at The Dow Chemical Company, about their partnership in creating and packaging a brand new kind of cat litter.
Tom: What is the history of Lucy Pet Foundation?
Joey: When I owned Natural Balance Pet Foods, we always donated food to animal rescue groups because it was my belief that they were the ones actually saving lives and changing euthanasia rates. I felt great supporting that. When the company was sold, I had no more food to give, so I decided I would start the Lucy Pet Foundation. It would be a fleet of mobile spay and neuter trucks and provide no cost or low cost spaying and neutering. I wanted to stop the influx of animals going into the shelters.
I told my wife I was going to take a million dollars and start the Lucy Pet Foundation; she said “OK.” Then I told her I wouldn’t make a dollar from this; I’m not taking a salary. And my wife said “OK.” My wife asked about traveling—I said we’ll travel. We’ll go to Lancaster and Palmdale and all the places there’s pet overpopulation. That wasn’t the travel she had in mind. But that’s what happened.
I hired Dr. Karen Halligan, who used to be with the local ASPCA. I met her at a trade show and hired her to be the chief veterinary officer. And that’s how we started.
It’s been a little more than two years and I’m very proud of the Lucy Pet Foundation. We’ve helped over 11,000 animals.
I felt good about giving food away, but I had blinders on. I knew animals were being killed, I knew that. But I drive the bus to the shelter and when you go the shelters and see it firsthand, it’s pretty tough. I would be crying driving home and thinking that I couldn’t do this. Then I’d get home and my dogs would come up to me and I’d realize I have to do this.
I’m really proud that the city of Los Angeles has given us a contract. In the little over two years we’ve been doing this, we’ve gotten a really good reputation. The contract is to spay and neuter over 10,000 animals over the next two years for the city.
Tom: How did making the products start? What’s the relationship between Lucy Pet Foundation and Lucy Pet Products?
Joey: The Foundation became such a big project and we needed more money. I’m not a fund raising expert, but I do know how to create and sell products. So I started Lucy Pet Products in order to fund Lucy Pet Foundation. I don’t take a salary. I donate the profits back to the Foundation.
I started with shampoos. I really made them different. It’s really beautiful packaging and metal bottles. The product inside works well, too. Those launched nationally with Petco and Central Garden distributing.
Tom: You recently branched out into cat litter. Tell me how that happened.
Joey: Someone in the industry said to me, “Joey, you’re so creative. Can you do something with litter?” I started brainstorming with Betsy Martin, who I’ve worked with for 20 years. We came up with a two-handled bag with a side spout so it’s very easy to pour. There’s not a bag like it.
The package itself is beautiful. It features our cat Ricky, who we rescued. Ricky has a very interesting tail, so on the bag the tail wraps around it and makes the handle.
I took it to Jim Heim at Central—he loved the packaging. He introduced me to the company Horn in LA. Horn has a relationship with Dow. They set up a meeting between my team and Dow, so we flew out to Houston. I said to my team on the way in, “You do realize we are going into a $54 billion company and asking for an exclusive on their new state-of-the-art litter that stops ammonia in the box?Let’s just enjoy the meeting.”
We were shocked that the result of that meeting was that we got the multi-year exclusive. We couldn’t have scripted it any better. So now, that litter is ready to launch at Global. I’ve already got orders from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. I expect it to be a big product and, more importantly, one that will help cats because there’s no ammonia in the litter box. We smell ammonia at three parts per million but cats are smelling it at much less than that. And they’re inhaling it. This litter is healthier for cats and I think it will be very successful and help the Lucy Pet Foundation. It’s a win-win.
Tom: Tell me about the development of the new litter. What are its important qualities?
Andre: At Dow, we like to say that we connect science with societal needs. Our odor prevention technology is the perfect example: a groundbreaking solution to an issue plaguing cat owners everywhere. With our patent-pending, nontoxic solution, cat owners and their pets will not be exposed to high levels of unpleasant ammonia odors. Dow’s solution inhibits ammonia from occurring in cat litter boxes.
Tom: How did Dow decide to select Lucy as the exclusive package supplier for the litter?
Andre: Joey Herrick wants to disrupt the cat litter market. He wants a product that addresses the harmful ammonia problem once and for all. And above all, he wants to have a positive impact on the pet population. Dow is very pleased to be the technology engine behind this product. Moreover, we are proud to be affiliated with a company that is actively working to make a real difference in larger animal welfare issues.
Tom: What else is coming up at Lucy Pet Products?
Joey: We have a dog named Surfin’ Jack—he’s on the bottles of our shampoo. I got him out of the shelter. He was in the Lucy Bowl commercial for the Lucy Pet Foundation featuring dogs and cats playing football with other dogs and cats watching the game. Now, Jack and Ricky are learning to surf. I’ve done Rose Parade floats in the past. We’re bringing back a float we used in 2012 with dogs surfing on it. It’s coming back for 2016 but the difference is I’m building the first portable wave machine on it. It’s going around the country, looking for the best surfing dogs. It’s really the “American Idol” tour for surfing dogs to be in the Rose Parade. The goal is to spread awareness of the thousands of animals that are euthanized in shelters.