Nourishing with Knowledge

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief, Petfood Industry/Petfood Forum, explains why an event like Pet Food Forum is more valuable than ever for the industry.



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Pet Food Forum, which will be held April 27-29 in Kansas City, Mo., is widely considered to be the premier conference/trade show focusing on the production of pet food and treats. What makes it a must-attend event for such an important part of the pet industry? First, it’s one of the few times during the year when many members of the industry from around the world get together and exchange business ideas, find new business, renew long-standing friendships and the like. Networking is the No. 1 reason people say they attend.

Second, we focus on making sure the educational sessions offer the latest research, information and insights on key topics affecting the industry.

Given all of the hot-button issues concerning pet nutrition today, why is it more important than ever for everyone within the pet food and treat supply chain—including retailers—to participate in an event like Pet Food Forum? Through our educational sessions, especially roundtables and panels, we try to foster discussion on burning and difficult issues. That also makes the conference invaluable for attendees. And, of course, we know that during all the networking events, many informal conversations also take place among attendees, exhibitors and everyone there.

Each year, Pet Food Forum features keynote and general session speakers who offer expert-level insights to attendees. Who do you have lined up this year? Our opening keynote for 2020 is Bonin Bough, a consumer goods expert. His past experience includes stints as a high-level marketing executive with companies like Mondelez International and PepsiCo. He will be offering expert insights on “Hackonomy”: How to create greater value for your business by breaking things like tradition, processes or simply the mind-set of “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

General session speakers include:

•  Maria Lange, vice president of strategic verticals pet and cannabis for Nielsen, presenting “Emerging Trends in a Changing Pet Food Industry Landscape”;

•  David Sprinkle, publisher and research director of Packaged Facts, presenting on “Tracking Pet Food Priorities: Why Consumers Switch Products and How They Mix Things Up”; and

•  A roundtable of pet nutritionists and other experts discussing “Beyond DCM: New Models to Close Pet Food’s Nutrition Research Gaps.”

 

Pet Food Forum also offers a diverse lineup of breakout sessions covering timely and important topics within the pet food industry. What can attendees expect to find among this year’s offerings? We will have four concurrent technical session rooms on one afternoon (Tuesday, April 28), covering:

•  Ingredient research—individual topics include, “Black Soldier Fly Ingredients for Cat Food” and “Rethinking the Role of Corn in the Pet Food Industry”;

•  Nutrition and marketing trends—including “Key Success Factors for a Winning Clean Label Pet Food Strategy” and “Pet Food Customer Perceptions of Product Attributes”;

•  Technologies for today’s pet food—such as “Industry 4.0: Improve the Operational Performance of Your Pet Food Facility by Using Big Data” and “Path to Pet Food Personalization: Direct-to-Consumer Scientific Experience”;

•  Safety—including “Nurturing an Organizational Pet Food Safety Culture” and “Unconventional and Novel Protein Sources: Mitigating Risk.”

 

In addition to the general roundtable session, we will also have three concurrent roundtable sessions on Wednesday, April 29:

•  CBD craze: update on usage, legality, research in pet food—covering “Top Trends in Natural and Specialty Pet: Focus on CBD,” “Green Rush: Making and Marketing Pet Foods and Treats with CBD” (the regulatory/legal outlook) and “New Research on CBD: Safety and Efficacy”;

•  Sustainability’s key role in all areas of pet food—including “Optimizing Proteins to Achieve Holistic Sustainability in the Pet Food Industry,” “Sustainable Pet Food: Combining Nutrition and Efficiency” and “Debunking Common Pitfalls on the Path to Pet Food Packaging Sustainability”;

•  The microbiome and its importance to pet nutrition and health—including “Feeding Trillions of Bacteria: Bridging the Gap Between Nutrition, the Microbiome and Pet Well-Being,” “Keeping the Microbiome in Mind: Best Practices for Diet Trials” and “The Effect of Complex and Diverse Sialylated Oligosaccharides on Simulated Dog Gut Microbiome.”

 

Will Pet Food Forum feature a Student Program again this year? What can you tell us about this part of the event? Yes, and for the third year in a row, this will include oral and poster presentations by students from leading academic programs from throughout the world (U.S., Canada and New Zealand) on their recent research on various aspects of pet food nutrition, processing and safety. Besides those students, the program will include dozens of other student attendees who will be there to learn the latest pet food research from industry experts, network with suppliers and pet food professionals, and possibly find future employers!

Are there any new features Pet Food Forum will be debuting this year? Leading into Petfood Forum, we are offering a brand new event called Petfood Essentials, with more foundational information aimed at people newer to the industry or those who need to learn more about areas of pet food other than their own functions. This year’s program will focus on Production and Safety A to Z. So far the industry is responding well to the concept, as our registration numbers are very healthy.

On the Petfood Forum Exhibit Hall floor this year, we are debuting a Pet Food Buzz game show feature, where attendees can have fun putting their pet food knowledge to the test and receiving prizes from leading sponsors.

This year, for the first time, the Pet Food Alliance, a consortium of various pet food organizations and companies, is holding its spring meeting just after Petfood Forum, on April 29-30. It also includes a student program component. Find more information here: fprfalliance.agsci.colostate.edu.

This meeting will join that of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which will hold a pet food-labeling workshop also the day after Petfood Forum ends (April 30). AAFCO successfully held a similar workshop the day after Petfood Forum 2019  and wanted to continue the partnership, as did we!

Finally, in 2019, we debuted a Pet Food Tech Talk stage with leading suppliers explaining their latest technologies and services; we are bringing back a new and expanded version this year, based on last year’s success.

What are your expectations and goals for Pet Food Forum moving forward? We are very fortunate to be part of a dynamic industry that keeps growing, even in developed mature markets; and as the pet food market continues to rise globally, we foresee Petfood Forum also continuing to grow. Our goal is to keep offering new educational options such as Petfood Essentials, plus partnerships with organizations like the Pet Food Alliance and AAFCO, to help pet food professionals and others affiliated with pet food to better understand today’s pet food consumers, learn how to best produce and market pet food, and how to grow their businesses. PB

 

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