Dog food is a $56B industry, only $11B short of the $67B baby food industry. Given declining birth rates and an ever-growing preference for dogs over people, it’s not hard to imagine dog food outgrowing the baby food industry in coming years. Pretty wild, considering dog food was hardly a business until World War II.
Clement L. Hirsch—an eccentric businessman and dog-lover—founded Kal Kan Foods in 1936 to supply dog food to serving canines. Most dog foods were either made from soy protein or low-grade meat—which stunk horribly and weren’t very nutritious or filling. Hirsch made dog food from real meat that was good enough for human consumption.
Legend has it that Hirsch ate his own dog food in board meetings to prove his confidence in the product.
Tech companies adopted this “dogfooding” ethos, leading to many of today’s innovations, such as the iPhone screen design and Office 365.
Dogfooding can promote a culture of inaccessibility because creators become conceited in their understanding of the product and don’t seek diverse user feedback. Although user research is critically important, it need not replace dogfooding when it can coexist.
As a consumer, beware of any entity not using their product—whether a chef who doesn’t eat her food or a podcaster who doesn’t use the products he promotes.
As a creator, use what you make. Living with your product will make you feel your users’ pain and inspire you to improve it.