THE HEADQUARTERS OF SAFEWAY Stores in Middlesex, England, appear neat, streamlined and efficient. But take a turn into the third-floor office of Edwin Rose and all corporate logic ends. Cluttering his In box are three jars of dog biscuits and on the wall is a poster of Felix the Cat. Even more startling, Rose, 31, is sitting at his desk relishing every morsel of Prime Cuts Tripe Mix. "The ingredients are so good," he says of the dog food, "that sometimes I'm tempted to accompany them with a bottle of French wine."
Rose's culinary habits may seem peculiar, but he's the top dog for Britain's 371-store Safeway supermarket chain (not affiliated with the U.S. stores). Working under the simple dogma that no product should reach a pet's bowl without first passing his lips, he has turned the chain's gourmet line of kibble into one of its 20 top-selling products. "My taste didn't naturally coincide with the tastes of cats and dogs," says Rose, who samples all the pet food sold in the store. "I have had to educate my palate to coincide with theirs."
What he has learned, 300 products later, is that pets don't like their food cold (it ruins the aroma), they prefer organ meats over prime cuts, and they don't like their meals served in one big glop. "They want to know what they're eating," says Rose, breaking apart a can of cat food into sardines, calamari, mussels and shrimp. "Wouldn't you?"
Rose, the son of a government official and a statistician, honed his taste buds on tamer fare. He began sampling the fruits of his labors in 1991, after a year as a Safeway stock boy. His first assignment was to test canned fish, then he moved on to sugar and olive oil. When he was promoted to pet food last November, he says, "it seemed a natural step to chow down." Although his bosses went along, if the chain's panel of 2,000 pets likes a food and Rose doesn't, the paws have it.
Not all of this pleases his wife, Paulette, 29, an ex-model whom he married last year. The worse part, she sighs, is his breath. "I've bought him countless mouthwashes and toothpastes," she says, "but it doesn't get rid of that meaty smell." She'll have to put up with it for now, says Rose. "There is not," he says dryly, "a queue of people waiting to fill my shoes."
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