March 21, 2017

Trade show season. It’s the time of year that brings manufacturers, distributors, retailers and every industry professional in between to a location in some vacation-worthy destination to conduct business and maybe even have a little fun.

Following the advice of industry veterans and experts, many trade show attendees arrive on Day One with goals mapped out: from finding new business partners and taking note of market trends to sizing up the competition. Another primary function of the trade show circuit is to debut new products.

Global Pet Expo is one of the largest and earliest pet industry trade show/conferences of the season. With over 6,000 attendees and 1,087 exhibitors last year, Global Pet Expo is a prime opportunity for many pet brands, which feature new products at their booths or in the New Product Showcase.

The New Product Showcase features some of the most innovative and state-of-the-art pet products on the market. Many of the showcase winners also fall in line with trends underway in consumer demand at the time. For instance, 2016 Global Pet Expo New Product Showcase Best in Show winners included the Jellyfish Cylinder Nano from Jellyfish Art in the Aquatics category, which saw a jellyfish hobby trend; the Eco-Friendly Birdhouse from Le Sharma Trading, Inc., which follows the “green” trend sweeping the entire pet industry; and the YakySNACKS’ YakyYUM and YakyCHURRO from Himalayan Corporation in the Natural segment, the sheer existence of which is itself a testament to the current craze over all things “natural.”

New Year, New Stock
There’s no shortage of product launches at this year’s show. Whether adding a new flavor to an already existing line of pet food, releasing a new toy under an established brand or launching a new brand altogether, what’s new at global is in ways difficult to pinpoint—there’s a lot that’s new!

In pet bedding and furniture, there’s the Safe & Sound Pet Bed from Pet Acoustics, with “patented sound-absorbing layers to resolve common behavioral feline stress,” according to promotional material. The three environments—a bed, a tunnel and a crate liner—are appropriate for cats as well as small dogs. Following its recent announcement of a license agreement with EmojiNation, BH Pet Gear will be launching a new line of products sporting emojis, the well-known pop culture icons. Products will include pet dishes, beds, collars, harnesses, leads, toys, waste bags and apparel.

On the international front, Australian company DOOG will be releasing a homewares range for pets, including an antiskid bowl with a silicone removable base and beds stuffed with recycled poly fiber filling and nylon casing. Zhangzhou City Xinrui Timber Co. LTD. will be introducing a new rabbit hutch, designed with white picket fencing and detailing.

Of course, the pet food category is constantly welcoming new products to the market. The Honest Kitchen recently announced several new launches coming March 2017, including two new diets joining its Minimalist pet food line, two new Proper Topper selections and the new Cuddles cookie treat, as well as revamped packaging sizes and visuals. With ingredients sourced from New Zealand and an increased meat content being introduced to its recipes, Ziwi Peak will be launching new air dried pet foods in addition to canned foods for dogs and cats. The Tripe flavor for dogs is formulated for sensitive stomachs and supports joint health, while the Blue Mackerel and Lamb flavor for dogs and cats is high in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to benefit pets’ skin and coats. Portland Pet Food Company, founded in 2014, will officially introduce its new line of shelf-stable, ready-to-serve microwavable meals and beer biscuits, which are available in grain- and gluten-free varieties. And on trend with the rising popularity of raw diets, Stella & Chewy’s will be debuting its grain-free Raw Blend and Raw Coated kibble, with 60 to 70 percent protein-rich meat, coated in freeze-dried raw.

Whether it be to use as a snack in between meals or as rewards during training, pet owners are always looking for palatable treats that do little to derail pets’ diets. At this year’s trade show, SmartBones will be introducing a number of new no-rawhide products, including Twist Chews, Kabobz, Chicken Wrapped Sticks, a Holistic Chew Line, Bacon & Cheese Chews, Dental Chews, SmartChews and SmartNaturals Treats. Zuke’s will be expanding its Enhance Functional Chews line to include Cognition Functional Chews and Immune Support Chews, for owners in search of treats that also supplement system support. To extend the life of expensive hard treats, there’s West Paw Design’s new Qwizl, a pliable yet durable dog toy made from the company’s proprietary Zogoflex material with side openings to release a treat’s scent and taste.

A brand that’s introducing new flavors of treats at Global is Caru. The company is releasing tuna and pheasant flavors of its Soft ‘n Tasty Baked bites for dogs. Each square-inch treat is made with USDA-inspected meat as the first ingredient, plus blueberries and cranberries. Caru is also unveiling a new tuna flavor to its Soft ‘n Tasty Baked Bites for cats. The bite-sized treats, which can be served between meals or as a reward for well-behaved kitties, are made with non-GMO ingredients.

At times, the trade show floor can feel more like a whirling sea of smiling faces and outstretched hands, all vying for a moment to present their creations. It can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming, for retailers and manufacturers alike—the former sifting through all of the new products to learn more about those that interest them, and the latter figuring out how best to reach potential business partners.

For everyone involved, the road to Global Pet Expo is quite the journey. Three pet brands gave Pet Age an exclusive preview of their newest offerings and a closer look at what it takes to launch at Global Pet Expo.

What Dogs Love
Healthy Treats, Inc., well known for its unique line of treats, Dogs Love Kale, will be launching its newest product at Global Pet Expo 2017. Dogs Love Snapeas, available in three limited ingredient flavors, are made in the USA. According to a company press release, peas are an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids required by dogs and cats. They also benefit digestive systems and are known for antioxidant properties to prevent disease, including cancer.

“It’s very unique; nobody’s doing anything like this,” said Paula Savarese, president and co-founder of the Dogs Love Kale brand. “The way we’re making the product is with very limited ingredients. We chose to season these treats instead of include the proteins in them, which is kind of the way the human product is made.”

By the time Global Pet Expo arrives, the product will have been in development for six months. Savarese says that, while launching at a show is worth the work, there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with such plans.

“There’s always something that—and we’ll call it a monkey wrench—whether it’s package design or, depending on timing, there’s a co-packer, having samples made, having product tested, all of those things take longer than you think when you start to get into developing a new product,” she said. “So it gets down to the wire but it’s the time to launch a new product. [If] you want to launch it, you’ve got to get it done no matter what you have to do.”

As Savarese tells it, Dogs Love Snapeas were born quite organically. The entrepreneur was with her dogs enjoying a snack herself when she noticed her pets’ curiosity.

“When I’m crunching [on a snack], the dogs want to know what I’m crunching on—and I don’t make it a habit of giving them ‘people’ food, but I figured, you know, a little snack like this, why not. And they wouldn’t leave me alone,” she explained. “To me, I think they deserve to have something like this, too.”

It’s not the first time Savarese has gone straight to the source for new product ideas. The idea for her company’s flagship product, Dogs Love Kale, was formulated in much the same way, as her pets’ curiosity about what she was snacking on led to the discovery that dogs do, in fact, love kale.

According to a profile on Dogs Love Kale, published in 2015 by Business Observer in Florida, it all began when Savarese prepared a kale snack for co-founder Dawn Ward and herself. After realizing how much their dogs loved the treat, the two entrepreneurs decided to develop a kale-based treat that would be healthy, all natural and gluten/grain free. According to the Dogs Love Kale website, kale is a “super antioxidant that contains essential vitamins, including beta carotene, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and lutein,” with a number of health benefits.

And now, they’re applying that winning formula to their newest product, Dogs Love Snapeas.

“So I’ve been eating the human counterpart to this product, which is Harvest Pea Crisps, and giving them to our dogs,” she said. “They love them and I couldn’t find anything like that for dogs. So, here we go again, you know?

“We’re seasoning them with dehydrated proteins, and they’re made in a human facility,” Savarese explained. “Peas are becoming very popular in the industry, so I thought it was a perfect time to introduce this.”

She expects intrigue with consumers and retailers alike, though she’s confident it won’t take much to convince pet owners of the treats’ palatability. After all, the proof is in the pudding.
“When we developed Dogs Love Kale, nobody in the industry was using kale in anything—treats or food,” Savarese said. “It was difficult to convince people—and we still are. I still get the question, ‘Do dogs really love kale?’ And I’ll get the same thing: ‘Do dogs really love snap peas?’ You know, the answer is: if they had a choice, kale or snap peas, as opposed to chemicals that are in some other products—if they could make that choice—I think they’d make a better choice than what people are choosing for them.”

Dogs Love Snapeas’ forthcoming flavors include Peas & Chicken, Peas & Beef, and Peas & Himalayan Yak Cheese. They’ll be showcased during Global Pet Expo at booth #725.

Raw is Rad
Following the continuing trend toward wholesome, healthy and/or natural ingredients is Radagast Pet Food, Inc.’s newest addition to its Rad Cat Raw Diet line. The Natural Pork Recipe is a new frozen, raw flavor option celebrating the line’s 12th anniversary.

“We are premiering our newly released Natural Pork Recipe. This is the sixth protein in the Rad Cat Raw Diet line of raw food for cats,” said Tracey Hatch-Rizzi, vice president and co-founder of Radagast Pet Food, Inc. “It will be sold in three sizes, so pet parents can choose the size that fits their lifestyle best. The pork we use in this variety is natural pork, which means it is raised without antibiotics, hormones or growth stimulants and is humanely raised. It’s the perfect complement to the five other varieties we currently offer.”

Hatch-Rizzi says the new product has been in development for almost a year, explaining that the company tried out several cuts of meat before determining that the shoulder contained the “perfect blend of protein and fat.” According to Hatch-Rizzi, the first taste testers—the company reps’ own cats—approve.

And while it’s well known that pet professionals of all types travel from far and wide to attend Global Pet Expo, it might be overlooked how important such trade shows are to product launches. Hatch-Rizzi describes the preparation process with the nervous excitement of a performer getting ready for the opening night of a show.

“Even though we have already begun shipping our Natural Pork Recipe to distributors, we look forward to exhibiting it in the new product showcase,” she said. “Global Pet Expo has always been a great venue for us to meet with new and existing customers. We attend every year, and not only are we advertising our new variety, but we also have another special surprise: we are launching a fantastic new look to our packaging and will have that available for all to see. It’s been a lot to pull together, but we’re very excited to debut it at the show this spring!”

Hatch-Rizzi and her team already have in mind several goals for the show. Whether it be to tirelessly network, meet face-to-face with clients that are usually based far away or walk away with a few key insights from industry veterans, many show attendees arrive to Orlando with a checklist. For Radagast, exposure is king.

“Having our new products in the New Product Showcase is a great way to get the word out to our retailers about our new Natural Pork Recipe,” Hatch-Rizzi said. “We do a fair amount of advertising—especially leading up to the show—but sometimes that’s not enough to reach everyone that is attending. The new product showcase is a very popular area and gives manufacturers an opportunity to reach out to customers that may not be able to make it by the booth.

“Global has always been a very busy show for us and we are excited to be able to discuss our new products directly with retailers and distributors,” she added.

Of course, while this variety of Rad Cat raw diet might be new, Radagast Pet Food is no stranger to the pet industry. And as is the case with many brands, it all started with the needs of a special furry friend.

According to the company’s website, the Portland, Oregon-based manufacturing company—still family owned and operated—was born when the family kitten, Juno, developed serious digestive problems. The family’s holistic veterinarian suggested a raw, grain-free diet to combat allergies that were so often the cause of such health issues. Unable to find a suitable alternative that fit what their pet needed, the family researched, experimented and finally created their own.

“Pork can be considered a hypo-allergenic meat for cats because it hasn’t been a staple in feline diets,” explained Hatch-Rizzi, who has a master’s degree in Oriental medicine. “It is very well tolerated, especially for cats that can’t have poultry or are sensitive to red meat. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pork is a cooling meat and is a great addition to our line that includes warm, neutral and very warm varieties. Our line now offers varieties for every body constitution.”

The Natural Pork recipe will join the rest of the Rad Cat Raw Diet line, with varieties including Free-Range Chicken, Free-Range Turkey, Pasture-Raised Lamb, Pasture-Raised Venison and Grass-Fed Beef. Radagast Pet Food will be at booth #885 at Global Pet Expo.

Nighttime Necessity
For many pet owners with families—particularly young families—the thought of giving pre-teens more and more responsibility in caring for the family pup might be both a welcome and anxiety-inducing prospect. Such is especially the case when these newfound responsibilities include walking the dog after dark, which can at times be a dangerous task for both dogs and their walkers, regardless of age.

“I’ve got two young daughters, and as they’re growing up and having more responsibility, they wanted to walk our dog, Lizzie, who is actually the dog you see in a lot of the website,” said Brad Locke, founder of GloPUP. “Unfortunately, there were a lot of times they wanted to walk her when I just wasn’t comfortable letting them do it, Because it was getting darker outside in the fall, I was just concerned it was a little dangerous for them to do it. So, I would end up doing it.

“We started talking about, ‘Well, why don’t we use flashlights, or maybe we could do something else,’ and started to look around a bit and saw that there were some light up collars out there but that the quality was very poor,” Locke said. “So we set off on a mission to say, ‘Can we improve the safety of pets and their owners while they’re on these nighttime walks, but in a way that this can become their day to day collar through the year, and that has that kind of durability and longevity?’”

And so, GloPUP was born. The collars and leashes, which will be premiering at Global Pet Expo, sport three lighting modes for greater visibility: quick flash, slow flash and steady on. The comfortable, no-pinch handle provides extra grip using neoprene and the leash has an adjustable length from 5 to 6 feet. According to the company, the leash and collar sets have superior LED technology, durability and are weather resistant due to their construction using polyester webbing, hardened plastic and stainless steel.

“We worked with the manufacturer over a period of about four months iterating the design and making it better,” Locke explained, noting that the collars and leashes make animals visible from up to 1,000 feet away to approaching motorists. “For example, the reflective stitching wasn’t initially included; it was just the lighting itself. So we added that in. On the leash and the collar, initially, the LED was a lot shorter and we wanted to really maximize the length for the visibility. So we extended that. Then, on the leash, we talked to a lot of different neighbors and asked what their frustrations were with their leashes and a couple things came back that we incorporated in.”

Indeed, statistics on accidents involving pets, their owners and oncoming motorists seem to indicate that an examination of safety on nighttime walks is warranted. According to a press release from GloPUP, 1.2 million dogs are killed on roads each year, and in most cases, the lack of visibility played a role in the incident.

And in addition to this quantitative evidence justifying his venture, Locke has anecdotes suggesting he’s hit on a bright idea—pun intended.

“I was out on Halloween with my daughters trick-or-treating, and we were of course using it [the GloPUP collar and leash] in the dark. A car rolled up… and it was a police car,” Locke recalled. “He rolled down his window and he just goes, ‘Where did you get that?’ and we had a whole conversation about it because he’s seen so many cyclists and dog walkers who’ve had either accidents or very close calls because they can’t be seen by drivers at night. So it was very gratifying to hear him talk about how he was seeing the benefit very clearly and how it could apply to a real safety issue.”

Like most manufacturers premiering products at Global Pet Expo, Locke feels the pressure. Adding to that excitement is the fact that this is the first time Locke and GloPUP will be launching a product at a trade show.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from people who have used it, so that has given us a lot of confidence that the product delights,” he said. “Success would be having as many face-to-face conversations with folks who are interested in learning more so that they can understand the type of people we are and who’s behind the product, getting their hands on it, getting to touch it, to use it and see it in action. At the end of the day that’s what we’re trying to help do: improve the health and safety of pets and, at the same time, help retailers grow their category.”

GloPUP will be at booth #3908 to exhibit its products at Global Pet Expo.

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