CHESTERFIELD, MO. — In the 1970s, Sissy McGill took a trip to Germany that would alter the course of her life. Upon witnessing the premium pet foods offered in Germany at the time, McGill saw an opportunity to offer improved holistic nutritional options for dogs in the United States. Thus, Solid Gold Pet was born.
“It was challenging being a woman in the pet industry in the 70s,” Solid Gold Pet shared. “In a male-dominated world, Sissy was relentless in pursuing her passion for making quality food for dogs. She wanted to be an inspiration for other young women to follow their passions and dreams.”
In this Q&A with McGill, she and the Solid Gold Pet team share how the company was started in 1973 and where it’s headed today.
PFP: Tell us about your business or your career in the pet industry.
Solid Gold: Solid Gold Pet was the first brand of its kind in the pet food industry offering high-end natural and holistic pet food. With a rich 40-year history, Solid Gold is now part of the nearly $6 billion premium natural pet food sector it helped to create. Solid Gold was founded on the simple belief that every pet deserves the longest, happiest life possible and that quality ingredients are the key to nourishment that helps our pets thrive. Our holistic recipes balance nutrient-dense superfoods with high-quality proteins to provide transformative lifelong health for our furry families.
PFP: How did you get your start in the pet industry, and how did that experience lead you to where you are now?
Solid Gold: Sissy always raised Great Danes and over time her dogs became bloated and obese from the dog food they consumed. She was not happy with the choice of dog foods in the United States. When she traveled to Germany to buy “Bismark,” the son of the World Champion Great Dane of the time, she realized that the German Danes seemed to be in a healthier condition and lived longer lives than their American ones. Sissy decided to bring food samples back to the United States for testing. The dog food in Germany was superior to anything we had in the United States at the time – all-natural, no chemicals, no fillers. Sissy knew we needed something like this in the States, so she did her research and started what was to become Solid Gold. Soon after, Solid Gold’s first product, “Hund-N-Flocken,” a special all-natural and holistic dog food made with high-quality meat proteins and nutrient-dense superfoods devoid of corn, soy and wheat, was born.
PFP: What has been your biggest challenge — personal or professional — related to your work in the pet industry?
Solid Gold: Sissy always said that “a pet that is healthy in mind, body and spirit is a light that shines upon the world.” When she started Solid Gold, her biggest challenge was educating them on the different ingredients that could make the difference between living and thriving in their dearest pets.
PFP: What is top-of-mind for you and/or your business in the industry right now?
Solid Gold: We are laser-focused on finding the most premium and craveable ingredients available to pets that can enhance the nutritional benefits of their food. One of the ways we're doing this is through our new NutrientBoost products, which is a plasma-packed line that includes essential minerals, 18 amino acids, and antibodies to support the immune system and gut health. The brand is constantly seeking beneficial, natural ingredients that offer nourishment and craveable flavor. The industry continues to experience growth in the natural segment, and Solid Gold is excited to continue delivering holistic recipes that help pets thrive.
PFP: Tell us about a professional accomplishment in the pet industry that you are proud of.
Solid Gold: Sissy is proud to have introduced the first natural dog food in the United States, Hund-N-Flocken, in 1973. At that time, there was no natural dog food in the United States. For many years, she worked on the floor of her living room and out of her garage crafting the first holistic recipe, Hund-N-Flocken, and handing out samples. Hund-N-Flocken holds a special place in her heart. It provides the best natural nutrient profile derived from pasture-raised lamb, healthy whole grains, and a unique blend of nutritious superfoods, living probiotics, and rich omegas to promote gut health and overall immune support for our pets. Pets needed a natural pet food option in the United States, and we at Solid Gold were the trailblazers.
PFP: What advice would you give to young people starting their careers in this industry?
Solid Gold: It was challenging being a woman in the pet industry in the 70s. In a male-dominated world, Sissy was relentless in pursuing her passion for making quality food for dogs. She wanted to be an inspiration for other young women to follow their passions and dreams.
PFP: What is something about the pet industry that people outside of the industry may not realize?
Solid Gold: Sissy faced numerous challenges at the early start of Solid Gold, including a great deal of pushback from the FDA, since there was no standard for natural pet food at the time. All the FDA-approved dog food on the market was cheap and full of fillers and animal fat. She pushed relentlessly through these challenges to move Solid Gold forward.
PFP: If you could pick three trends influencing the industry today, which are the most important and why?
Solid Gold: First, consumers are opting for healthier ingredients – similar to what we eat – to feed their pets. At Solid Gold, we use superfoods in our products to balance a healthy and nutritional diet for our fur babies. Secondly, more and more pet parents are seeking to give their pets healthier, longer lives and see special or functional ingredients and supplements to complement their diet in specific ways. Much like we tend to need bone or joint support, so do our older pups, and having these ingredients available for them is incredibly helpful. Third, and same as with us humans, our pets are living longer lives, so the number of diets, supplements, and other products for senior dogs and cats has been increasing very rapidly.
PFP: Just for fun, do you consider yourself a dog person or a cat person? Or, if you have pets of your own, tell us a little bit about them.
Solid Gold: Sissy is 100% a dog person. Her first pups were Great Danes – Warlock and Max – they inspired her to create Solid Gold. She also competed in several national dog shows with Warlock and Max.
PFP: Any final advice for other women in the pet industry?
Solid Gold: Be fierce and relentless in the pursuit of your dreams. You’ll find obstacles along the way, but your drive will help you overcome them. When Sissy started, what she wanted to do didn’t exist. She was a young woman in pursuit of healthy food options for her dogs at a time when all the top companies had two things in common: they were run by men, and they relied heavily on artificial ingredients. Having a completely different point of view was what helped her create a new way to see pet food. She changed the face of the pet food industry and taught animal lovers across the country that the food they feed their dogs and cats is the difference between living and thriving.
Continue reading about other female leaders featured in our Women in the Pet Industry series.