Why do my chews and oils look different... again?
It’s been 8 years since I started baking for my dogs at home and since then I’ve been constantly changing, learning, pushing myself, and improving, then being kicked in the teeth and having to get right back up.
There’s been a lot going on and probably the biggest news (aside from the fact that I’m cancer-free and done with radiation* woohoo!) is that Austin and Kat has moved into a huge new production space which we’ve named THE MAKERY ™
It’s so exciting to see things come together…i’m definitely super busy but it’s fun to be involved in setting up all the processes, working alongside my brilliant ops guy (mike) to create an amazing facility. hiring new staff who help me create everything Austin and Kat.
When I started out my mission was “improving the lives of families and their pets by using holistic and natural supplements” - it’s incredible just how much I’ve learned and how far we’ve come, especially learning to relax my sentence structure.
But I still get out of bed each day excited to talk to customers, learn about new ingredients, and work with my team to tell everyone why a&k is so special. it’s an endless process and I’m enjoying the journey, learning, and being challenged.
Seeking better than the best...
It might come as a surprise to you to learn that over the years we’ve worked with countless hemp suppliers, four different Salmon Oil suppliers, fourteen packaging and bottle suppliers, and different types of bakery and oil manufacturing equipment, and now my soon to be third powder auger, just to name a few.
Over, these past few months I’ve spent so much time vetting suppliers, reading COAs (Certificates of Analysis), lab tests, microbial tests, heavy metal tests, and pesticide tests all with the sole mission of securing the BEST ingredients possible. It’s hard to think about the different suppliers of ashwagandha (now only from India) and chamomile (now only from Egypt) I’ve used before settling on a sustainable and ethical partner.
I’ve changed recipes in small tweaks and big tweaks too, sometimes returning back to the original because it was the best and most effective. I’ve reworked and renamed the purple bags (my original biscuits) at least four times with three different packaging changes, and the same with my original oils.
The Hip and Joint Formula was originally called "Get Up and Go", but no one understood where their dog was going to go, so I changed the name and now it's one of our bestsellers. I discontinued a product I loved for my dogs (Austin’s Active) because it didn’t resonate with my consumers... and so many, many other changes—all in the search of better.
Not to be better than the next best brand, to be better than our own best.
The Austin and Kat Difference
To say we do things differently is an understatement, and we are only realizing how much so now as we strive to hold true to the quality standards that define us. For instance, curcumin has over 285 times greater bioavailability than typical turmeric extract. WHY? Because it’s what the team all give their own pets, and doing anything substandard isn’t how we do things.
Today, I am beyond proud! Our new production kitchen aptly named The Makery was built, tweaked, ratcheted, plumbed, and piped to make “our” products. We’ve always said it takes a community of people to make products. We’ve built our company as a community, and that community includes our team, our customers, our hemp growers, our ingredient suppliers, and our retailers. And for the past couple of months, we’ve spent a lot of time soul searching and asking a lot of hard questions. In particular: what are the opportunities for us to use as a means to move forward and be better?
But first we had to ask ourselves, what makes Austin and Kat, Austin and Kat? What is it that we do that only we can do?
There are a few things that make our products different from any others. I don’t think we spent a ton of time talking about it before because spelling it out always felt like marketing to me. I’m a proof-is-in-the-pudding type of person. But I’m going to lay it out for you now...
Sourcing is one of the most arduous tasks at Austin and Kat (just ask Tim, Courtney, and me). Our ingredients are often directly traded and sourced specifically for us, whether they’re coming from Washington, somewhere in the U.S., or somewhere around the world.
From lavender, hemp, astaxanthin, oat flour, and hemp seed oils, I’ve searched far and wide to get the best, it might cost a bit more but my dogs, Austin, Harper, and Bailey are all using it so I’m not skimping.
I have spent years learning about and tweaking our various recipes. Each recipe is different. Sometimes, I regret the fact that I didn’t just make it easy, but in the end, the nuances of each recipe make each product it's own.
It can’t be made just anywhere. It has to be made here. Because only you can make the product exactly the way you want it.
Baking biscuits and blending oils is a delicate balance of ingredients. The physical components of the recipe impact the end product immensely. When things are out of balance it doesn’t work.
We have a bustling R+D kitchen (my home kitchen to be exact) where I make and tinker with ingredients on the weekend. This is where we make discoveries about how to incorporate new ingredients into our products to make them even more efficacious.
Ingredients, Recipe, Process
These are the things that make us, Austin and Kat. The sourcing of ingredients matters, the base recipe matters, and the process (including R+D) matters.
We’ll continue to source all of the ingredients for our products. This is a non-negotiable for me. It might take extra time and research but in the end, the proof is in the pudding (aka dog chew).
All of these ingredients, whether from our kitchen or others’, will converge at the Makery and be made HERE in our facility in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
P.S. So, yes, some things will always be a bit different, because I am always looking to improve. It’s much like my days in triathlon….I learned a new technique in the pool and got faster, got more aerodynamic on the bike and expended less energy, and improved my stride in the run and got faster. And then, did it again….and got faster.
*Thanks again to all the amazing docs and nurses at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Thanks to you i can get back to growing Austin and Kat while spending extra time with my family and dogs and being grateful for everything I have.