Gabby Slome is the co-founder and chief experience officer of Ollie, a national pet wellness brand founded in 2015 that delivers freshly cooked, human-grade food tailored to each dog’s nutritional needs. With a lifelong passion for animals, Slome founded Ollie out of a need to make and deliver healthier dog food and has revolutionized the $30 billion pet food industry by transforming the way we feed our pets. Slome lives in New York City with her husband, daughter, and rescue dog Pancho. The Bark’s founder and editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska, who home cooks for her own three dogs, spoke with Gabby recently about Ollie dog food.
The Bark: Can you tell me how Ollie dog food is made, what is the cooking process like? You say that your food is minimally processed unlike traditional dog foods, what temperature is it cooked at?
Gabby: All our food is vet formulated. It is sourced with great and natural ingredients. We cook it at low temperatures in order to ensure that the nutrients remain intact but that any potential pathogens are destroyed, so the meat is cooked at 155 degrees.
The Bark: Is the is the meat protein cooked separately from the veggies or is it all cooked together?
Gabby: They are cooked separately and then combined post cooked, because different types of ingredients require different temperatures.
The Bark: Are the veggies fresh, and are the supplements, even the calcium, human-grade?
Gabby: Yes, the veggies are fresh, and all the ingredients, including the supplements are 100% human grade. We produce our food at an USDA inspected, human grade cooking facility so nothing that isn't human grade is permitted there.
The Bark: Is this what allows you to say that Ollie dog food is human-grade?
Gabby: Yes, and we have registered in every single state as a human grade pet food. Every state asked for verification from our suppliers and cooking practices to ensure that we get the grade points.
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The Bark: That must have been an enormous task. Were there any special considerations you gave as you were formulating your recipes and did you help with the formulation and what special considerations were given to the food?
Gabby: Absolutely, we had a very heavy hand in the formulation of our food. We wanted to be sure that the majority of our ingredients are meat and not fillers or vegetables. We didn't want to use any food science ingredients or “feel good” starch or anything like that. We want to make sure there is a nice variety.
The Bark: You have a pretty robust FYI section on your site, that is where I learned that your food can stay fresh in the fridge for 14 days, unopened. That’s amazing. That must help a lot to customers who have limited freezer space. What makes your food to be able to have such a long refrigerated shelf life?
Gabby: The food is cooked, packaged and flash frozen in the same kitchen. It is then vacuumed sealed. Our food is also for all life stages, including all sizes of puppies.
The Bark: How are your calories in the food calculated? Is that tested by an independent food testing laboratory?
Gabby: Yes, it is tested by the same independent lab where they test for nutritional content and that includes calorie density.
The Bark: How often do you do testing. And how often do you do the every expensive AAFCO testing?
Gabby: We test with every batch and we do AAFCO testing fully until we reach the formulation levels for our recipes, and also about once a quarter. Then we also do random sampling.
The Bark: There are a variety of reports that some customers might like to review, like a nutrient analysis on a dry matter basis (and not just “as fed”), the measurement of ash and carbs, and also the breakdown of the sources of calories to proteins carbs and fat, and a calcium to phosphorus ratio. Do you make those reports available to customers if requested?
Gabby: Yes, we do.
The Bark: That’s good to know, and hopefully one day you will make them available on your site too. The other thing I have to give you kudos for is your feeding guidelines. In terms of how many kcals you are recommending. I have a question about that your calculation for your feeding guidelines. And how many calories per day, a dog requires. How did you come to those calculations because yours really differ quite a lot from other dog food recommendations.
Gabby: How so?
The Bark: Yours are higher which I think is better.
Gabby: We worked with vet nutritionists and applied various multipliers based on the RER resting energy requirement. Ollie charges the same amount but we are offering more calories to our customers. We are much cheaper when you look at it that way.
The Bark: I'm surprised that some of other fresh food makers and, probably one of your biggest competitors, have feeding requirements that are so low. For example, I’m using as a point of reference, a standard 40 pound adult dog who is not overweight. And you are recommending 835 kcals, compared with another fresh food maker who recommended only 608 kcals. I do think that 835 is closer to what it should be. And since your food arrives in meal-sized packages, what questions do you ask of your customers to calculate the feeding guidelines?
Gabby: The dog’s age, activity level, current weight and neutering status. We also have a very strong care team and they reach out to every new customer to make sure their dogs aren’t gaining (or losing) weight, etc. And then we make any necessary adjustments to their feeding recommendations.
The Bark: How do you think your food measures up to others, and exceeds the others, in the fresh food market?
Gabby: Our ingredients for sure. You know we have a higher protein inclusion, versus others, and our transparency and testing protocol. And then the level of our customer service that ensures that we're following our customers along the way and making sure that it's not just getting at first but that the dogs are continuously doing well with our food.
The Bark: What is the most popular questions you get when people are deciding to feed their dog with your food?
Gabby: People just want to understand what is IN the food and they ask why is it better than your traditional kibble. We get a ton of comments from customers—like love letters—on how their dogs are acting like puppies again and how their coats have never been so shiny…amazing stories of transformation, and yes, about how their poop is getting better!