Naturally happy dogs
Caroline Bingham visited a farm in south Lincolnshire where their founding father’s concern for continuity of local employment sowed the seeds for a thriving pet food business.
For three generations the Grant family have been making dog food at their farm in Old Leake, Boston. In the 1970s, family patriarch Ted Grant (who was awarded an OBE for services to agriculture) looked for crops which would offer continuity of employment during the quieter months. Diversification into flower growing was one venture but a bumper crop of oats and barley was the inspiration to launch a business making dog biscuits.
Marketing manager Kate Tarrant showed me around the factory site which now employs approximately 150 staff making dried pet foods as well as their own premium brand of oven baked dog food, Laughing Dog.
“Ted’s sons, James and Andrew, are still involved. James’ children William and Taisie have worked in the business and Andrew’s daughter, Rachel, currently works in our sales team. The family have always had a strong commitment to the countryside and to our local community, and this ethos continues to drive our ambitions for the future.”
As you travel around the county in 2018 and especially at many of the local shows, you and your dogs will be seeing more of Laughing Dog as Kate explained that they are taking the brand on the road in their own restored 1950s vintage van.
“William restored the 1951 Morris T-type van because it was the perfect vehicle to compliment the heritage and traditional values of Laughing Dog,” said Kate. “The brand had begun manufacture in 1936 in Dunchurch and Ted recognised that the natural values of this baked dog food would fit perfectly with our own. Laughing Dog became part of the Fold Hill family in 2009 and production moved to Old Leake where our farm-grown ingredients continue to be used in our recipes. Importantly, one of our best-selling mixers is our traditional mixer meal made from 100% wholemeal flour, which is the same 1936 recipe!”
Unlike most dog food in the UK which is made via a high pressure process called extrusion, Laughing Dog’s dry food is slowly oven baked. Baking is regarded as a gentler process, helping to retain more of the natural goodness of the ingredients and this is what sets Laughing Dog apart as a premium brand. There is a higher cost to this production method but the baking process is kinder on the end product and creates an extra crunchy kibble, which is excellent for dogs’ teeth and – due to its baked texture – it cannot be bolted so quickly. For dogs with a sensitivity or intolerance to wheat, there are Wheat Free completes, treats and mixer meals, and for dogs needing a 100% grain free diet, there is even a range completely free of all grains.
Laughing Dog also creates a range of grain free wet adult completes in three favours, and has just launched a new Casserole & Kibbles pot which is a one-meal combination of wet and dry food; ideal for holidays and days out! Other innovative lines include their Morning, Noon and Night treats with blueberry and banana to start your pet’s day; peppermint and ginger to boost mid-day vitality and camomile and passion flower in the evening to promote calmness.
“At Laughing Dog there is a real commitment to natural processes and ingredients. The farm has a solar farm and wildflower borders surround the fields to provide a haven for wildlife. On our website we share our love of rural life and our naturally inspired products – our new ‘Dog Happy by Nature’ social media campaign encourages customers to share photos and stories of their dogs enjoying nature, and our farm diary is captured on camera for all to see.”
The Laughing Dog vintage van has already appeared at many national shows including Crufts, but this year it will be touring the county shows in Lincolnshire connecting this thriving local business with customers and their pets on their home turf. There are also plans to attend Interzoo, the pet industry’s leading exhibition in Germany, to explore European distribution channels.
“The Laughing Dog roadshow will be appearing at the local shows we all love, including Lincolnshire Show. There will be feeding stands so that your four-legged friend can try the ranges and our nutritionists are on hand to give advice about what might be best for your dog.”
You can find Laughing Dog’s completes, treats and mixer meals in any good pet shop as well as ordering direct from www.laughingdogfood.com. The company are so confident about their products that they offer a 100% Dog Happy Guarantee. It is not only their four-legged customers who are happy though. Thanks to the creative thinking of Ted Grant, year round employment opportunities have been created in the heart of their local community.