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An Inside Look: Picking the Brain of One of the Minds Behind Global Pet Expo


March 13, 2018

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) was created in 1958. Though the pet industry has changed some bit since that time, the organization’s mission remains the same: “to promote responsible pet care and advance the pet products industry.” To help realize that goal, APPA puts on Global Pet Expo, an industry trade show with more than 16,600 attendees. We asked Andrew Darmohraj, APPA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer about the legacy APPA has created for itself over those years and what the thousands of Global Pet Expo visitors can expect from this year’s show.

Q What have been the biggest challenges in the industry and for APPA over the last 60 years?

A The evolution of APPA and the pet industry has been truly remarkable. What was an incredibly small industry 60 years ago has boomed to be one of the largest retail segments in the U.S., with pet spending at an impressive $69 billion annually. And the association has literally grown from a handful of small entrepreneurs to more than 1,200 members consisting of pet product manufacturers, their representatives, importers and livestock suppliers representing both large corporations and growing business enterprises.

It is fair to say that as the pet industry has grown, so has APPA, but some of the challenges have remained the same, namely, the availability of pets. Even dating back to the early years, leaders within the association recognized the need for a presence in Washington, and by 1970, the association created the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) for that very purpose. At the time, APPA (formerly APPMA) specifically addressed pet product concerns, and PIJAC handled what were mostly livestock issues back in the day.

In the early years of its existence, APPA consisted solely of U.S. companies, but as the industry expanded, along with the global popularity of pets, the association realized it needed to evolve, so membership was extended to qualifying businesses outside of our nation. As pet retailers, manufacturers and distributors became more sophisticated, the game really began to change. Enter large chains and big box stores, which truly changed the landscape of the industry. The 1990s changed the industry’s distribution patterns and retailers became a huge driver in the process. The association, once again, had to adjust accordingly. The three-person staff grew to include a fulltime staff with an executive director, attorney, public relations person and administrative assistant, to name a few. Membership was around 350 and recruitment efforts doubled those numbers within a few short years. This globalization of the pet product industry significantly changed how business was being done. In the years to follow, leading us into 2000 and beyond, we began to see people taking risks and entrepreneurs bringing to market innovations like we had never seen before. Consumer demand for products that make being a pet parent more enjoyable has been on the rise year after year since.

What started as an organization to benefit a few businesspeople that recognized the potential opportunities this industry had to offer has grown to become the leading trade association serving the interests of the pet products industry and driving efforts to help sustain, support and grow the industry. APPA offers valuable services to its members and is a source of support, education and information. The association serves as co-presenter (with PIDA, the Pet Industry Distributors Association) of the premier industry event, Global Pet Expo—the largest annual pet products trade show.

Global Pet Expo (formerly the APPMA Show) has grown significantly from the first show in 1959 at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, with just 75 booths to what it is today—nearly 3,500 booths in more than 340,000 net square feet of exhibit space at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Ensuring the availability of pets and spreading the joys of responsible pet ownership will continue to be at the forefront of APPA’s efforts. APPA

Q What is the structure that makes up APPA?

A APPA now has a staff of 21 professionals featuring Executive Management (President and CEO Bob Vetere and Executive Vice President and COO Andrew Darmohraj), Administration, Accounting, Member Relations and Business Development, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Marketing and Communications, and Trade Show. Andy reports to Bob and oversees APPA staff. Bob is the liaison with the board and oversees APPA initiatives Pets Add Life (PAL), the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), The Pet Leadership Council (PLC), the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), Bird Enjoyment and Advantage Koalition (BEAK), and the Pet Care Trust.

The APPA Board is made up of a chairman (Kevin Fick), vice chair/treasurer (Chuck Latham) and directors (Jim Heim, Bob Merar, David Morris, Jam Stewart, Alice Tillet and Brent Weinmann).

APPA membership includes more than 1,200 pet product manufacturers, their representatives, importers and livestock suppliers representing both large corporations and growing business enterprises. APPA’s mission is to promote, develop and advance pet ownership and the pet product industry and to provide the services necessary to help its members prosper.

Q How would you describe your collaborations with other industry organizations?

A As a leading voice and resource in the industry, APPA understands the importance in spearheading, supporting and, in many cases, creating initiatives that further advance and strengthen the pet industry. I’m happy to share some examples with you.

Fourteen years ago, APPA joined forces with PIDA to merge their trade shows into Global Pet Expo, combining the strengths of each into a show that has far exceeded expectations. The result was and continues to be a much larger, more encompassing representation of the pet products industry. Global Pet Expo is now the world’s largest annual pet products trade show and in 2017 featured 343,700 net square feet of exhibit space with 6,761 buyers in attendance, more than 3,000 new pet product launches, 1,130 exhibitors and 3,437 booths sold. Total show attendance came to 16,646 people.

Over the years, APPA has also hosted its own management conferences across the country, where hundreds of professionals gathered to network and to hear from top-notch speakers on timely, informative topics facing the pet industry. Topics ranged from global trends and leadership techniques to the power of public relations and export issues.

In January 2016 the inaugural Pet Industry Leadership Conference took place in Tucson, Arizona. This conference combined world-class speakers with breakout sessions that explored best practices and emerging trends. There were also traditional Executive Conferences that brought trading partners together for productive one-on-one sessions. This first Pet Industry Leadership Conference brought all stakeholders—manufacturers, distributors, livestock breeding and wholesale and retailers—together to address the critical issues facing everyone’s business. It is a very much needed event that will make an important positive difference for the industry for years to come.

Under the leadership of Bob Vetere, APPA consistently looks for ways to align industry goals and to work in collaboration with members, board of directors, staff and other industry associations to support and further the interests and success of the pet industry. A few years ago it was clear that the industry was in need of an entity that would bring together leaders from all segments of the pet industry.

APPA, along with Central Garden & Pet, PETCO and PIDA, worked to create the Pet Leadership Council (PLC) to strengthen and advance the pet industry and to speak with a unified voice. The PLC is made up of pet industry leaders, animal welfare representatives, veterinarians and academia who advocate for pets by promoting responsible pet ownership. Additionally, the council strives to educate the public on efforts to improve the health and well-being of companion animals. In recent months, this group played an important role in serving as an information hub for disaster relief following the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires as pet supplies, shelter and veterinary care were a critical need in the affected areas. APPA, along with Zoetis and PETCO, also played an integral role in founding HABRI. Today HABRI is supported by a growing number of organizations and individuals. The HABRI Foundation is fast becoming the go-to resource for research and information on the human-animal bond. Since its formation in 2010, HABRI has created the world’s largest online library of human-animal interaction science, HABRI Central, and has funded more than $2 million in innovative research projects.

Another great example of APPA recognizing an industry need and helping to fund an initiative (along with PIDA and WPA) with a viable solution is the BEAK coalition. A group of leading avian manufacturers, veterinarians and caregivers came together to form BEAK. This group addresses the need for responsible bird ownership and growth and is the driving force behind a ground-breaking, award-winning campaign called “My Bird” which is charged with increasing responsible bird ownership. The effort is working as the needle on ownership is moving, and the goal is to reach or surpass 6.7 million bird owners by 2020.

APPA’s support of PIJAC is referenced above, but it goes without saying that PIJAC’s efforts play a critical role in promoting responsible pandrew globalet ownership and welfare, fostering environmental stewardship and ensuring the availability of pets. As an industry, we have a responsibility to ensure that the animals in our care are treated with kindness and respect and that pets do not cause environmental or human health problems. PIJAC is a pioneer in developing educational programs for pet owners, the pet industry, related industries and governmental organizations that address these issues.

APPA is proud to work with other top associations like PIDA and WPA on initiatives like the PLC, BEAK and HABRI, to name a few, as we know our collective efforts are necessary as we move to the future and continue to face new challenges. We have much to celebrate but there will always be more work to be done to ensure the longevity, strength and success of this great industry.

Q What can you tell us about the APPA National Pet Owner’s Survey, which has been the industry’s most comprehensive consumer research study since it started in 1988?

A Since 1988, APPA has been collecting and publishing the pet industry’s most comprehensive consumer research study about pet ownership, pet care practices and pet product purchasing of owners of dogs, cats, fish, birds, small animals, reptiles and horses. The survey is published every other year and has been quoted by authors, businesses and reporters around the world for decades. Our trusted data has helped APPA members and companies of all sizes make smart business decisions. Over the years, the questions in the survey have evolved to match trends in the marketplace and in our lives. A few years ago, the survey went online to better meet the needs of participants. The survey itself is also available digitally as we responded to feedback from members and media who overwhelmingly were seeking data in this format. APPA members receive a copy of the survey, which is often regarded as a significant benefit of membership as the data is highly sought after. Major improvements are expected with the next edition as APPA transitions into an exciting new phase for the survey.

Q How can independent retailers benefit from attending Global Pet Expo?

A Attending Global Pet Expo provides retailers with the ideal environment to see products in-person, to be present for the ‘buzz’ surrounding trends in their marketplace and to receive comprehensive product information in one centralized location. Seeing and touching a product allows for conversation that just wouldn’t take place via images and email. Attendance at the show also provides the unique opportunity to build solid, lasting relationships with vendors. The education and networking opportunities offered at Global Pet Expo are truly valuable as well. Taking advantage of the knowledge others in the industry have experienced firsthand can oftentimes be the key to taking your business to the next level.

Q What new aspects can people expect to discover at Global Pet Expo this year?

A Just when you think you’ve seen it all, another Global Pet Expo happens and shatters that notion! Each year we listen to our attendees and do our best to respond with new offerings that meet the needs and wants of today’s buyers, media and exhibitors. And being known as the premier industry event, it’s important we provide the best possible trade show experience to our attendees. Whether it’s our convenient and exciting location in sunny Orlando, with unparalleled access to fantastic attractions and accommodations, or that we have the most innovative exhibitors and more qualified buyers attending year after year, the show delivers the best of the best in the pet industry. A qualified buyer attending Global Pet Expo works for an established business with a proven record of purchasing pet products from a manufacturer or distributor in quantity for resale to the consumer. Global Pet Expo has an unmatched qualification process that ensures buyers are attending this show to make purchasing decisions and place orders with our exhibitors.

In 2018, we have an impressive lineup of speakers for our educational seminars with some sessions now taking place in New Products Showcase and the Aquatic Lounge, all of which are sure to provide insight like never before.  And we have reformatted our Industry Breakfast to include valuable roundtable discussions on a variety of timely topics. Each year is a new opportunity to meet and engage with professionals in our industry. There will be numerous opportunities to network, and one of the highlights will surely be the Eighth Annual New Products Showcase Awards presentation. “All Under One Roof” is the official theme for this year’s event and truly embodies what this show is all about… this is THE place where the pet industry will gather and where more new pet products will make their debut than at any other industry trade show.

Q What is exciting about the international flavor at this year’s Global Pet Expo?

A As the pet industry continues to increase in popularity globally, coupled with the increased awareness of the power of the human-animal bond, there are more people than ever coming from outside the U.S. to take part in Global Pet Expo as it is the first industry trade show of the year and the best opportunity to see the latest innovations before they hit store shelves. For the second year, Global Pet Expo will feature country-specific pavilions where multiple countries will exhibit together in one space.  Pavilions from Great Britain, Canada, China and Taiwan will be featured in an expanded special section, which further reinforces Global Pet Expo’s continued commitment to being the premier annual trading and networking venue for the pet industry worldwide. And while the new pavilions have been an outstanding addition for international exhibitors, we expect more than 100 additional international exhibitors to have a presence in the special sections and general Show Floor where they will be featuring products that address international trends and global business strategies. It’s interesting to note that last year’s show boasted more than a quarter of total buyers coming from outside of the U.S.—a 22 percent increase in international buyer attendance from the previous year. We had representation from 79 countries from around the world, and we expect to see those numbers continue to climb in 2018!

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