There is nothing more gratifying for a pet parent than to watch your furkid thoroughly enjoying chomping on his favorite thick cut bacon dog treat coated with maple syrup. When he licks his chops, you can almost taste his enjoyment…
So it’s no surprise that this very taste combo actually did start out being tested on pet parents in a special test kitchen run by a very creative chef whose role is to orchestrate such flavor sensations that ultimately find their way on to the food and treat shelves for our pets.
Recently, I was a amongst a group of media influencers invited to St. Louis, Missouri as the guests of Nestlé Purina to tour their headquarters and celebrate Take Your Dog To Work Day. The company was planning to set a world record for the most pets in the workplace on this special day (which they did).
But first back to the maple syrup flavored bacon (above right), the kitchen known as the Purina Culinary Center and the pet parent taste-testers.
The taste testers are in fact Purina staffers who are indeed pet parents, and, lucky to be able to bring both their cats and dogs to work with them every day. But in their “working life”, they are also the creative and marketing decision-makers deciding what food and treats will eventually make it to market on the shelves of a pet store near you. And it all starts here …
For me, the highlight of the two-day visit to the campus, which was packed with interested learning sessions, and behind-the-scene tours, was a lunch at the Culinary Center presided over by the resident foodie maestro herself Chef Amanda Hassner (Above). By her own omission, she has “a seriously cool job” where she can combine her passion for pets with her amazing culinary expertise. We were there to taste her “work” and learn what goes on behind every recipe when those decisions makers are around her table.
The kitchen was set up for family style dining – big tables groaning with a variety of dishes. For starters, there were platters of bacon, jam and cheese crackers, turkey crisps and maple bacon curls, and bacon-peanut butter sandwiches. Do any of these combos sound familiar when shopping for your dog?
Next were bowls of quinoa with roasted Brussels sprouts, and dishes of marinated chicken on vegetable skewers ( above) with brown, red and wild rices. Skewers made from carrots – yes, your dog can relate …
For me, the concept of the family-style dining was significant too. After all, we connect over food within our own family circle and we connect over food with friends and loved ones. In fact, certain cultures are famous for their family-styled meals. Whether it’s a Chinese family sitting down and sharing multiples dishes on the table, or, an Italian family sitting down to a meal with a similar concept, one thing remains constant — we have emotional connections to the food served and we remember certain smells and link them to people or places.
And there is no question that feeding our pets mimics all of the above. We make an emotional connection with our fur kids, every time we put food in a bowl and serve it to them. Not to mention when we treat them with something yummy like that thick cut bacon treat smothered in maple syrup.
Chef Amanda spoke about her dishes in the same way an artist explains and interprets a work of art. Next, she went on to plate individual entrees for us too – roasted salmon in basil-infused water, roasted chicken with crispy polenta and carrot marmalade, served with sautéed chicken hearts, spinach and apple salad. Then there was grilled flank steak and braised beef wontons with roasted sweet and blue potatoes.
It was very easy to see the transition from the culinary center to the choices we make as pet parents when shopping for food and treats and deciding between different flavors whether its cans or bags. It’s all about variety. Hence the importance of the dishes and the decisions that originally emanate from this culinary center.
The dogs and cats that accompanied their pet parents to St Louis would have been jealous! This was a people only experience! And the food was delicious. Without doubt the best meal of the entire event.
The next time I saw Chef Amanda she was with her black and white cat named Ari and they were taking part in the world-record for the most pets in the workplace to celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day.
In fact, 280 dogs and cats showed up and the company needed a drone hovering overhead to capture the event on film. Afterwards, all pets were treated to treats of their choice from a special treat truck on the scene for the occasion (below).
Purina staffers are lucky enough to bring their pets with them every day. There is naturally no shortage of treats! There are also beautiful grounds and a dog park for pets to enjoy.
The company has new goal, namely to turn Take Your Dog To Work Day into an everyday #PetsAtWork event in workplaces around the country.
Research studies done at various universities including Virginia Commonwealth University and Central Michigan University have confirmed that pets in the workplace increase productivity.
“It’s also a great low-cost ‘pet perk’ companies can offer during a time when many businesses have been forced to cut jobs and decrease benefits,” says Beth Stultz, Marketing and Communications Manager for Pet Sitters International.
And how exactly do pets increase productivity? Well, psychologists say that instead of being disruptive in an office environment, pets actually have a positive effect, boosting employee morale and thereby increasing productivity and sales and improving communication between staff members.
Keep this factoid handy when looking to get the stamp of approval in your own working environment. Let’s spread the word and make it happen!
The Nestle Purina PetCare Company sponsored the Meet Purina event. However, all opinions are my own. I only write about topics that I hope readers will consider useful information and relevant to their interests as pet parents.