4 Key Takeaways From Petfood Forum 2017




Pet Business returned from the 25th anniversary edition of Petfood Forum with a wealth of knowledge about pet food trends, pet food marketing and more. This year’s conference featured keynote addresses from Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi Zuckerberg and facilities designer/animal science professor Temple Grandin, five learning tracks jam-packed with in-depth sessions and plenty of networking opportunities over Kansas City barbeque. Below are four standout themes from the conference that retailers can learn from.

1. Pet parents are buying pet food online to save money.
GfK’s Maria Lange gave a talk entitled “What’s next for pet food specialty? Staying a step ahead of tomorrow’s trends.” She revealed that the main reason people buy pet food online is to save money, according to data collected by market-research firm GfK. To combat this online competition, Lange said brick-and-mortar retailers should focus on tactics such as heightened digital interaction, social media usage, home delivery and becoming a destination for shoppers by including things like carrying live pets, a cafe or grooming services. These features can help retailers become more than just a pet store, but a place for entertainment and other necessary services.

2. Frozen food might be dropping off the map.
A few of the fast-growing innovation trends in pet food are limited ingredient diets, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. At her talk, Lange discussed how limited ingredient diets are making the shift from being a result of allergen diagnoses to ingredient transparency. Now, pet parents want the fewest ingredients possible. On the flip side, raw and frozen food trends have signs of decline in interest because of worries about safety and recalls. 

3. Pet food purchases are made from the heart.
On the marketing sessions track, Bob Wheatley, founder and CEO of Emergent Healthy Living Agency, gave a talk called “Activating the new psychology of pet food marketing: Millennials leading the pack in pet parent shopping behaviors.” Wheatley stressed that decisions to purchase pet food are not rational or considered, but based on emotional impulses and feelings. Because of this, retailers should focus on marketing to the heart—not the head. A few of his tips for doing so included gathering endorsements and testimonials; concentrating on personal stories over statistics and pursuing philanthropic efforts while encouraging customers to follow suit. Wheatley said customers seek a sense of trust and transparency with whom they give their money to as brand relationships are looking more like the ones in our personal lives.

4. Don’t just use social media—use it with purpose.
We know, we know: Social media is important. But it’s not just about using social media anymore. It’s about using it in its correct and intended ways. Justin Emig, director of search marketing at Web Talent Marketing, gave a worthwhile talk called “Beyond retail: how social media can drive offline and online sales.” He noted that a lack of understanding of what each individual social platform is intended for—as well as the audiences on each of them—can make it hard for your social pages to gain traction. To find more success on these channels, think about why certain audiences use certain sites, and cater your content to those needs. For example, Facebook’s algorithm gives newsfeed priority to video. Try sharing more video content, or even better, creating your own.


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