Elevating the Conversation

The high-level executives who attended the third-annual Pet Industry's Top2Top Conference in April found the event to be a valuable platform to discuss the various issues facing all segments of the trade.


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As the sun set over Florida’s stunning Amelia Island Plantation Resort on the final night of the Pet Industry’s Top2Top Conference this year, one thing was clear: no one wanted to leave. Now that the results of the post-event survey are in, they confirm that the good feelings followed everyone home.  From networking opportunities and informative speaker sessions to the conference’s overall value for individual businesses and the industry as a whole, just about every attendee gave rave reviews.

Couldn’t make it this year but thinking about joining us in 2015?  The Pet Industry’s Top2Top Conference is really all about the people who attend, so we’ll let them speak about their experiences first-hand:

“I attend the Top2Top Conference because it’s an opportunity to meet new peers in the industry, be involved in the leadership activities, and help make good decisions for the benefit of everyone involved, from manufacturers to consumers,” said Ted Mischaikov, CEO of Healthy Pet. “In terms of the time that I spend here, the people I get to speak with and the information I get exposed to, it’s a very good use of my time.”

More than 98 percent of attendees agreed with Mischaikov, saying they found the conference worthwhile, and 94 percent stated that the conference met or exceeded their expectations.

“The Top2Top Conference is the place to meet the top people in the industry, by far,” said Thomas Edling, vice president of veterinary medicine at Petco. “We have great conversations with people with similar interests that are trying to make the pet industry better. And this is where you meet good people that make the difference.”

“The Top2Top Conference had great speakers and networking opportunities with industry leaders,” stated Jeff Sutherland, president of Animal Supply Company. Sutherland wasn’t alone. More than 98 percent of industry executives thought the networking events and sessions would benefit their business going forward.

Ernest Colaizzi of Research Associates Laboratory stated that a main benefit of the conference was the “access to company decision-makers and face-to-face contact.”

Industry executives found the conference eye opening on several levels, with 96 percent stating that the conference will benefit the future of the pet industry. “The Top2Top is the one conference our industry puts on where you get every different section of the pet industry to come together to share ideas,” said Joe Watson, president and CEO of Petland.

David Dieter, director of key accounts at Zoo Med, added “Finally, a place where real needle-moving conversations can be had by the major players in the pet industry.”

First-time attendee Amy Mack, of Reptiles by Mack, was “extremely impressed by the caliber of speakers at the event, especially Norman Mineta, the former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Transportation, who gave his insights on how the industry can better shape public policy outcomes. I would encourage anyone who has not attended in the past to attend next year’s Top2Top Conference.” 

The session on Setting the Standards: Why We Need Science-Based Breeding Guidelines, presented by Purdue University’s Dr. Candace Croney, was popular among attendees. Keryn Rod, director of government and corporate relations at Purebred Breeders, said, “Dr. Croney gave the industry an idea of what it needs to do to combat further encroachment by the activists. It was great to hear someone who has dealt with the issues in agriculture and has somewhat of a blueprint for safeguarding the industry in a responsible way.”

Steve King, president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association added, “Dr. Croney is a gifted speaker and is working on a project that is essential to the long-term health of the industry.” 

Pete Risano, president of Pet Life stores, found the presentation that Packaged Facts’ David Sprinkle gave on Pet Product Market Drivers to be the most useful for his business, saying, “This year’s Top2Top Conference gave me a combination of focused hard data, as well as a comprehensive perspective of the direction the pet industry is headed. As a result, I feel better equipped to run my business.”

The Millennial Pet Owner, presented by Nathan Richter, partner at Wakefield Research, focused on how shifting consumer demographics are impacting all levels of the pet trade. It was well received by attendees, including Brad Cantwell, president of Midwest Home for Pets, who said, “Nathan Richter had a very good grasp on this generation of buyers and the issues facing the industry.”

Ken Oh, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council president and CEO, summed it up: “In the pet industry, where we have so many issues facing us every single day, you really need to take the time to come to the Top2Top Conference, where we can focus in on the biggest issues and show you how to affect change in your hometown or state. Without the knowledge and advice we talk about here, you aren’t properly armed to protect your business and defend pet ownership.” 

We look forward to seeing you at next year’s conference in April, which will be held in Southern California.


Cathy Calliotte is vice president of marketing and communications for the Washington, D.C.–based Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

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