The pet industry went exactly one year, five months and 17 days without a major trade show and not only survived, but thrived during that span. Still, I would never recommend trying that again—particularly after attending this year's SuperZoo in its triumphant return to Las Vegas.

While walking the aisles of the exhibition floor at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, it became obvious that the pet industry—despite all of the success it enjoyed over the past year and a half—really did miss the type of large-scale, in-person event that provides the best chance to see the latest product innovations and make professional connections that can drive businesses to new heights.

Of course, SuperZoo 2021 was clearly less crowded than usual and didn't exactly deliver the level of innovation we've seen at past shows, but there was certainly no shortage of opportunities to engage in meaningful interactions with peers and business partners. In fact, according to the feedback I received from both buyers and vendors alike, this year's show was particularly productive on that front, thanks, in large part, to the smaller turnout.

When all was said and done, this year's SuperZoo experience drove home the point that the pet industry is about more than just products, purchase orders and bottom lines—it's about the people who make it all possible. And while it was great that technology was able to keep us somewhat connected during a difficult period when meeting in-person simply was not possible, there is no substitute for meeting face to face.

With that in mind, I hope everyone is already planning to attend next year's Global Pet Expo, set for March 23-25, 2022, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. It is sure to be the biggest, most exciting edition of the show yet, and will be the pet industry's next big opportunity to gather again in-person. And if you don't understand how valuable those opportunities are, it may be time to reassess how well you understand you understand our industry at all.