Several years ago, a number of companies and organizations came together to discuss the strength of the pet industry in light of an in-depth study that looked 10 years into the future. While the results of the analysis showed continued strength in the short term, it showed potential signs of weakness in ownership and spending toward the end of the period. At the time, there was strong interest in trying to do something to improve the long-term prospects for the industry, but there wasn’t much in the way of sustainable solutions produced, beyond developing standards for handling animals in pet stores.
However, for one of the first times in history, several disparate segments of the industry showed that they could, in fact, come together for a common cause. And not just to repel the type of direct, imminent assaults that the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) handles every day. This was different—it was a group effort to prevent major problems before they even happen.
While it took more time than originally hoped to build on this early initiative, a few years later a very diverse group of companies and associations again joined together to form the extremely successful Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI). With HABRI, a group representing virtually all segments of the industry worked together for the benefit of the entire industry as a whole.
Now the American Pet Products Association (APPA) is again partnering with a diverse group of senior executives to take the HABRI model and apply it on an even broader scale. Our industry has had a tendency to behave like so many small players, rather than the $55-billion-plus entity it has grown into. Often, that is fine—companies and organizations must focus on the things that are important to their individual success. Those separate plans do not necessarily always need to consider the overall good of the industry.
However, as all of the separate plans and courses of action evolve, they are sometimes redundant, in the sense that resources are needlessly spent in several places to accomplish the same thing. And each of those same individual initiatives typically do not have the same impact they could have if they were a combined effort.
To facilitate collaboration, APPA’s board has agreed to develop a new Pet Leadership Council (PLC) consisting of senior-level industry executives who will look at all of the challenges facing the industry moving forward, as well as the various initiatives that are already in place, in an effort to optimize their overall effectiveness for the betterment of the industry as a whole. They will look at duplicate programs and recommend ways to combine them to both save resources and improve the impact each effort will produce.
The PLC will have representatives from mass and pet retail, product and pharma manufacturing, distributors, live-animal suppliers, associations and veterinarians. It is a ponderous task, but a very necessary one, as the industry faces challenges from not only animal rights activists, but even more importantly, from the changing demographics of the U.S. marketplace. The need is critical to the whole industry, and the timing couldn’t be better.
Bob Vetere is president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA). For more information, visit