As we close out 2022, the pet care industry continues to experience a great deal of change. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers struggle to overcome the effects of an ongoing war, a lingering pandemic and supply chain disruptions in what seems to be a tumultuous decade. Inflation, too, is impacting pet products with prices taking enormous jumps throughout the year.
Through it all, the professionals that appear in this section have made a substantial impact on the pet market, so much so that Pet Age is recognizing them as this year’s honorees for its 2022 Power 50 list. The criteria for selection were relatively straightforward: Identify the people influencing the pet care community in positive way, whether they be company leaders, heads of organizations or officials whose decisions affect the pet care community and the animals we serve.
Pet Age examined the state of the pet market with input from industry experts and observers to derive the 50 executives, directors and authorities who are demonstrating the sort of forward thinking and professionalism that are needed from today’s leaders.
The list isn’t an exact science and there is no ranking – the list goes by alphabetical order. What the Power 50 list offers is a snapshot of people who are vitally important to the pet care industry. It’s an impressive roster and we are privileged to give them their due.
Pet Age congratulates this year’s Power 50 honorees and thanks them for the contributions that they’re making to the pet care community, using their dogged drive and steadfast leadership to foster growth in the pet care industry.
Whitedridge Pet Brands
Olivier has been in the pet industry for 30 years, mostly on the food side and in both the US and international markets. In 2015 and recognizing that the humanization of pets was creating a shift in consumer behavior, Olivier started Whitebridge, a company focused on “pet treating”, or nutritional products fed to dogs and cats in addition to their typical dry food, which is still the main source of calories for pets in developed markets.
Today, more consumers chose to enhance their pet’s meal with wet food to offer hydration missing from dry food, to add extra protein, and to enhance flavor. Others just like to offer healthy treats to train or indulge their pets. Under his guidance, wet foods, snacks and, more generally, treating became the business of Whitebridge. Olivier led the acquisition of several US-based brands in the last 8 years, including Tiki Pets, Buddy Biscuits, Dogswell, Cloud Star, Grizzly, Pet Botanics and Crazy Dog, and in 2022, directed the integration of the international brand Schesir through a merger with Italy-based Agras. Whitebridge is now present in more than fifty countries and ranks in the top thirty of petfood companies worldwide. Last year the company grew organically 30+ percent because its products enhance their retailer business and resonate with consumers. The company’s tag line, “Better Together,” is a philosophy embodied by both Olivier and the team, and perpetuated throughout between pets and people, and between Whitebridge and its retail partners.
Adam Baker has had a varied career, starting as an Officer in the United States Coast Guard. After leaving the service and getting an MBA he spent 20 years in the sporting goods Industry working for Nike, UnderArmour and Crocs.
Baker joined the pet industry in 2013 and launched the SodaPup brand with the goal of applying the product marketing principals he learned earlier in his career, namely to always put the consumer first; to create continuous product innovations; and to always give the consumer something exciting to look forward to. He was also committed to producing 100 percent in the U.S.A. In the past year Adam and the SodaPup team have innovated extensively in the enrichment category by creating a full range of enrichment products including rubber treat dispensers, nylon toys with enrichment attributes, lick mats, slow feeder bowls, enrichment trays, and durable enrichment devices called ecoins. All these products showcase the SodaPup ethos of making premium products that improve upon the functionality of other products in the market while also introducing fun, whimsical and unexpected designs that create an emotional connection with consumers. In this way, Adam and his team are not only improving the lives of dogs, but also making their pet parents happier in the process.
In addition, Baker and the SodaPup team have introduced a faster cadence of new product introductions that allows retailers to flow new items into their assortments and to differentiate their assortments from their competitors.
Pet Food Experts
When you grow up on a farm with a deep-rooted family history of connecting local pet lovers in the community, it seems a bit of clairvoyant grace that Michael Baker would someday reign as Pet Food Experts’ Commanding Officer. 20 years later, as President and CEO, Baker continues to carry an ever-increasing love for people in the heart of the business.
Throughout strong headwinds in 2022, Pet Food Experts continues to establish itself as a paragon in the industry delivering double-digital growth YOY and the innate ability to meet the ever-evolving needs of its 6,800 independent pet retailers.
Following the recent completion of three distribution center expansions, Pet Food Experts is continuing to evolve its framework for growth, amplifying its Executive Team with new CTO and CFO appointments. Heavy investments have also been made in heightening cybersecurity, brand portfolio expansions, voice-picking and freezer upgrades in its six distribution centers across the U.S. In 2023, the company plans to unveil a refreshed E-commerce solution designed to elevate the overall online ordering experience for retailers along with new offerings for its vendor partners.
But even as Pet Food Experts continues to grow, Baker has set a gold standard for investing in company culture through transparent leadership. Famed for his fireside chats and friendly tradeshow floor hugs, he is forever gracious and accommodating among adoration from the growing network of independent pet retailers. His unceasing optimism has masterfully mobilized the PFX community of 800 employees into service innovators.
Looking ahead, as a champion for good, Baker will soon launch the Baker Family Giving Fund serving as a catalyst for positive change in local communities by providing opportunities to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Animal Supply Company
With over 30 years of experience in supply chain distribution and leadership, Tim Batterson, Animal Supply Company (ASC) president and CEO, is a vital part of the company’s success. Tim has been with ASC for eight years and proudly works alongside the Leadership Team and company teammates to deliver success every day. Tim believes ASC teammates are the company’s biggest asset and sets the company apart from other industry distributors. By working together, the company continues to thrive through the everchanging landscape and economy to ensure ASC’s vision of ‘A world where every pet is happy, healthy, and safe’ comes to fruition.
In 2022, ASC achieved new heights as the company became an accredited business through the Pet Sustainability Coalition. Tim believes everyone has a responsibility to ensure improvements are made to enhance the planet for the future of pets and people. ASC continues to expand its operational network while focusing on providing the best-in-class customer service and delivering operational excellence. Most recently, ASC has opened an 80,000-square-foot distribution center in Scranton, Pennsylvania, increasing its presence in the Northeast and positioning itself for geographical success. The company continues to expand its national footprint with +15 brand wins in 2022, including fresh and frozen business which has allowed ASC has to become the nation’s largest fresh and frozen pet food distributor.
Batterson is the proud owner of two Boxers, Dexter and Koda, and completed his fifth Ironman this year. As a former football player, Batterson loves watching college football and cheering on his kids’ college teams: Gamecocks and Clemson.
ASC is the national leader in Local Everywhere pet food and supplies distribution serving 7,000+ retail customers who operate more than 15,000 retail outlets. Its mission is to share our passion for animals through trusted partnerships that connect the brands and customers we serve to those who love pets. The company operates 17 facilities and employs approximately 1,000 teammates.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition US
Nicki Baty is president and general manager of Hill’s Pet Nutrition US, one of Colgate-Palmolive’s multi-billion dollar brands, and global leader in science-led pet nutrition.
In her role, Baty oversees more than 600 employees across multiple locations in the United States who are focused on Hill’s mission to help enrich and lengthen the special relationship between people and their pets. Baty’s work ethic and passion for people and pets has made for a tremendous career at both Hill’s and Colgate-Palmolive.
In addition to leading Hill’s US to double digit growth during her tenure, Baty is also focused on driving innovation through a focus on digital transformation across the organization. Baty is a champion of embedding a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture into the organization as well as being relentlessly committed to sustainability and having a positive impact in everything we do. Of note, the Hill’s Food Shelter and Love program has provided more than $300 million in food to more than 1,000 and have helped place 12 million pets in their forever homes.
Prior to leading the US business, Baty served as vice president, Hill’s Global Customer Development and Regional General Manager, Asia and Latin America, where she provided leadership to the Customer Development teams globally and set the strategic focus for Hill’s emerging markets.
Baty’s previous roles included leading operations in Europe as regional general manager, Colgate Palmolive Nordic Region (2017-2019) and general manager, Colgate Palmolive Netherlands (2014-2017), where she led the return to consistent organic growth, strong market share gains and an acceleration into new retail environments.
Baty began her career in the UK and holds a Law and Business degree from the University of Warwick. She is married and has two children. She enjoys such outdoor pursuits as skiing, hiking and exploring new places, as well as serving as a foster family for pets who need temporary homes.
Pet Advocacy Network
Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Advocacy Network, the legislative and regulatory voice of the responsible pet professional community. Under Bober’s leadership in 2022, the Pet Advocacy Network’s government affairs team successfully protected and advanced the priorities of pet businesses in numerous pieces of high-profile legislation. As longstanding, systemic supply chain and port disruption issues impeded thousands of U.S. pet care companies in a challenging economy, their work supported the enactment of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act that removed many of the barriers. They also initiated a successful broad scale effort to remove Lacey Act amendments that would cripple pet imports and transport from the COMPETES Act.
At the same time, Bober’s communications team developed and launched a complete rebrand for the organization. Founded in 1971 as the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the new name, logo and website were unveiled at Global Pet Expo in conjunction with the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration, better positioning Pet Advocacy Network for many more years of effective advocacy on behalf of pets, pet owners and pet professionals.
Finally, as the pandemic waned, Bober brought the power of pets back to Capitol Hill for the first time in-person since 2019. The 5th Annual Pet Care Community D.C. Fly-In and Pet Night receptions brought pet professionals face-to-face with lawmakers and staffers to engage on key pet-related issues that will protect, advance and celebrate pets in Americans’ lives far into the future.
National Animal Supplement Council
Bill Bookout, NASC president and board chairman, is a true agent of change who thinks strategically and acts tactically, but still gets choked up when reminiscing about the pets who have crossed his path over the years. The NASC is a nonprofit trade association that promotes the health and well-being of companion animals given supplements by their owners and protects and enhances the animal health supplement industry. The NASC has grown from 18 member companies in 2001 to 300 members today.
Bookout is a recognized leading expert on regulatory issues surrounding animal health supplements. He routinely engages with regulators to cooperatively create a responsible path forward for these products when roadblocks arise. This year alone he has worked with the Vermont Department of Agriculture to create a specific category for supplements that is statutorily recognized; continues work with the Florida Department of Agriculture to address animal health supplements and eliminate stop sales until a viable solution is submitted in the 2023 legislature; initiated a long-term CBD safety study in dogs that will be completed Q4 2022 in response to FDA-CVM’s request for such a study; and is working directly with Idaho Governor Brad Little’s office in response to that state’s decision to stop the sale of animal remedies containing hemp and CBD.
“When we look back at our accomplishments in life, I think we all want to have made a difference,” Bookout said. “That’s what I am most proud of. I can confidently say the NASC has made a difference for the pet industry, and for millions of animals.”
Pet Food Institute
Since 2018, Dana Brooks has served as the president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute (PFI), the national trade association representing most pet food and treats manufactured in the U.S.
Brooks, the voice for pet food makers, has done more than 500 media engagements over the past four years with outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Yahoo! News, Petfood Industry, Pet Business, Pet Product News, Pet Food Processing, and Pet Age.
Brooks has 22 years of government relations experience representing a range of agricultural and food interests that includes how to engage and navigate the political system that regulates the pet food industry from Congress to AAFCO. Within the first six months of her leadership at PFI the controversial issue of diet-based DCM was introduced by FDA CVM.
Until June, Brooks served as an officer for the Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations (GAPFA), and currently is the president of the board of directors for Pet Partners. Recently, Brooks was asked to join the board of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
A member of last year’s Power 50 list, Brooks also is a very proud recipient of the Women in Agribusiness Ambassador Award she received in 2014 and a Woman of Influence recipient by Pet Age magazine.
Central Garden & Pet
Tim Cofer is the Chief Executive Officer of Central Garden & Pet, a $3.3 billion portfolio company on a mission to lead the future of the Pet and Garden industries. Its innovative and trusted products are dedicated to helping lawns grow greener, gardens bloom bigger, pets live healthier and communities grow stronger. Central is home to more than 65 high-quality and iconic brands including Nylabone, Kaytee, Zilla, and Aqueon, as well as strong manufacturing and distribution capabilities, and a passionate, entrepreneurial growth culture.
Since joining Central in October 2019, Cofer has led the company through some of the most transformative years of the Garden and Pet industries, delivering two consecutive years of record growth. In fact, this year, Central moved up to number 785 in the Fortune 1,000 rankings, which is over 200 spots higher since the company’s debut in 2018. In 2022, Central made meaningful progress against its long-term Central to Home strategy, most notably advancing its consumer-focused agenda through accelerated eCommerce growth, investments in product innovation and the execution of successful brand marketing campaigns.
With over 30 years of experience in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry, Cofer is committed to leading businesses that drive sustainable, profitable growth and create consistent shareholder value. Before joining Central, Cofer served in key leadership positions and held general management roles, including chief growth officer of Mondelez International; president of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa Mondelez International; president of Kraft Foods Europe; president of Kraft Pizza Company; and president of Oscar Mayer Foods.
Since joining the company in 2018, Ron Coughlin has spearheaded Petco’s transformation from a traditional pet retailer into a health and wellness company improving the lives of pets, pet parents and its more than 29,000 Petco partners (employees). Petco recently:
- Increased average employee wage rates
- Invested millions in employee benefits premiums and enhancements
- Introduced a one-of-a-kind specialty retail partnership with Lowe’s
- Became the first pet retailer to be awarded the American Humane Certified seal of approval
- Welcomed over 800 veterinary care professionals to its network
- Introduced cutting-edge ultrasound technology at its full-service veterinary hospitals
- Expanded its footprint with new Neighborhood Farm & Pet Supply pet care centers tailored to the health and wellness of pets in small-town and rural communities
- Expanded its Vital Caremembership – a pet health and wellness plan that pays for itself – to include all pet types.
- Expanded its WholeHearted line with human-grade, frozen food for dogs
Ron continues to propel Petco’s corporate responsibility function. In addition to its longstanding partnership with Petco Love, which has helped 6.5 million animals find homes since 1999, Petco is committed to increasing its assortment of sustainable products to 50 percent by the end of 2025, and improving racial equity, diversity and inclusion through enhanced tracking, training, employee resource groups and more.
Through purpose-driven performance — a hallmark of Coughlin’s leadership — Petco’s fully integrated pet care ecosystem has delivered 15 consecutive quarters of growth and continued customer growth as of the second quarter of 2022.
Robert Downey began Annamaet Petfoods in 1986 with a mission to develop holistic, natural, American-made pet foods. His goal was to provide optimal nutrition while maintaining an eye towards the environment. Downey’s leadership has allowed that to remain Annamaet’s mission to this day, as those principles have led to innovative and industry-leading products, including lines of life-stage and pre-therapeutic diets, treats, and performance supplements. Annamaet sales have grown each year and the brand has expanded to 18 countries and throughout the U.S.
Downey received his B.S. from The Ohio State University in Animal Science then went on to do seven years of post-graduate work in canine nutrition. His work has been published in Veterinary and Scientific Journals and is widely credited with forever changing the way modern endurance and performance dogs have been fed. Rob continues to give lectures around the world. He is also well known as an accomplished sled dog racer, competing in major races from Alaska to Argentina. Annamaet success is built off Rob’s unique combination of scientific research and study with real hands-on performance training.
Downey has always put quality and science first when developing his products; making test batches and doing real life feeding trials to ensure his products are safe, effective, and palatable. In addition to utilizing novel, sustainable ingredients in Annamaet’s sustainable line of dog and cat food, Rob was one of the first in the industry to adopt biodegradable synthetics for packaging.
With Downey at the helm, Annamaet remains a family-owned and operated company with science and nutrition at the forefront, always working to create the best and healthiest foods for pets everywhere.
Pet Sustainability Coalition
Caitlyn Dudas is the executive director and co-founder of the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC), a nonprofit that advances business through environmental and social business practices. She is a 2019 Woman of Influence recipient, winner of the 2019 Vanguard award and a 2017 40 Under 40 award recipient in honor of her innovative approach to bring together industry leaders to strengthen their businesses, while also driving the pet industry toward a future where pets, people and planet prosper. She leads the coalition from Boulder, Colorado, where she completed her B.A. in Environmental Studies and Economics at the University of Colorado. She also holds a Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability from Harvard University.
Dudas has grown the Pet Sustainability Coalition from eight founding companies in 2013, to a thriving community of nearly 200 engaged companies who are advancing their sustainability practices.
In the past year PSC has:
- Launched the PSC Packaging Pledge – A roadmap for Signatory companies to reach sustainable packaging goals by 2025.
- Launched the 4 Factor Framework on Sustainable Protein – The first holistic model to evaluate the sustainability performance of any protein type according to its environmental impact, social impact, nutrition, and animal welfare performance
- Implemented an Earth Day Rally – A 30 day sprint that engaged over 45 companies and seven industry partners to complete over 12,400 meaningful actions toward a more sustainable planet.
- Presented at six global industry conferences on the topic of sustainability in the pet industry.
Nestlé Purina PetCare
As chief growth officer at Nestlé Purina PetCare U.S., Andrea Faccio provides unified leadership across the organization to help transform business strategies into actions that drive powerful growth. She began her career in 1996 as a Commercial Trainee at Nestlé Brazil and has since served in many key roles across the company and the globe as a dedicated steward of iconic brands and one of the architects of our company’s success.
At a high level, Faccio’s strategic approach is to continue to innovate and renovate core brands while expanding pet care offerings to meet ever-changing consumer needs. As she notes, “ A unique element of the pet business is that our end customer can’t speak. This requires us to really be consumer – or pet owner and pet – obsessed to dial into the needs and expectations of today and tomorrow.”
Prior to her current role, Faccio served as Chief Marketing Officer, Vice President of Purina’s litter division and Vice President of Marketing for Purina Latin America and the Caribbean. She continues to serve as a judge for Purina’s annual Pet Care Innovation Prize program, which provides support and mentorship to emerging entrepreneurs in the pet space.
Faccio is a native of Brazil and has held positions across the Nestlé organization for more than 25 years, which has included key roles in Brazil, Switzerland, Australia and, most recently, posts with the U.S. pet care business. She earned her MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.
A lifelong pet lover, Faccio brings her Bernedoodle, Rio, to work with her at Purina’s downtown St. Louis headquarters almost daily.
Kathy Decker (KD) Frueh has spent the past 25 years with the KONG Company growing the company through a concerted focus on the brand and doing what is best for the dog. After starting her career in higher education, she transitioned to the pet industry through a serendipitous mutual connection. This began the long journey of growth for Frueh, the KONG company itself and the strong team of likeminded professionals.
With a strategic focus on the snowman shaped dog toy in pet specialty retail, and a KONG shaped heart, Frueh has been able to drive the household recognition now associated with the respected KONG name. Whether it’s creating a great place to work, making a difference in the world, or building a brand, Frueh has always put people first in her career. Her trademark likeability and tenacious spirit have been hallmarks of her tenure at the KONG Company as president for the last 15 years and have led to a dominant market position for the beloved company. Even amongst the many challenges posed by COVID-19, the KONG Company continued to grow and innovate in the marketplace through creative new product offerings and tried and true customer service. Frueh’s vision for the future and strategic insight continue to push KONG forward in the industry, maintain brand integrity, and develop innovative products for our cherished pets.
Born in South Dakota, Frueh attended Bethel University where she received a BA in Communications. After moving to Colorado, she earned her MA in Education from the University of Denver.
As a former independent pet retailer and a catalyst for change in the pet food industry, Berenice “Bere” Giannini founded eTailPet in 2018 to help empower independent pet business owners to thrive in the multibillion-dollar pet industry.
Giannini has a long history of driving innovation in the pet industry. Raised in California and Mexico, Giannini worked her way through business school at University of Southern California and became the CFO/COO at multimillion-dollar pet food company Dogswell, founded by her now husband. Seeing a need in the market for healthier, nutrient-rich pet foods, Giannini and her husband created Protein for Pets, an independent pet-store chain that specializes in healthy products for pets.
Giannini founded eTailPet after tackling the daunting task of bringing Protein for Pets online. Working with a limited budget and competing against big e-retailers, Giannini saw an opportunity to help other small, independently owned pet stores get online, bring clients into the stores, and keep innovation alive in the independent pet retail space.
Now, eTailPet is the only full-service all-in-one POS and ecommerce solution created for independent pet businesses by an independent pet retail owner. It allows thousands of independent pet food retailers to run successful businesses -both brick-and-mortar & online – with a low-cost, sensible business model. Bere and her eTailPet team are continually enhancing the platform with new features and functionality to help indie pet retailers compete against the big box retailers and online giants.
Giannini has been recognized as an entrepreneur and successful business leader, including recognition by Pet Age as a 2021 Woman of Influence. In addition to creating eTailPet and owning and operating the Protein for Pets retail chain, she has also demonstrated a deep commitment to community and service, including helping to support indie pet retailers impacted by COVID-19 over the past two years.
Dr. Bob Goldstein is co-founder of Earth Animal and head of product innovation and development. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Bob, with his life partner Susan, are the co-authors of the Goldstein’s Wellness and Longevity for Animals, winner of the Dog Writer’s Association Maxwell Medallion Award. He is the editor/coauthor of the textbook, Integrating Complimentary Medicine into Veterinary Practice, published by Wiley Blackwell.
In the 1970’s, after a personal healing crisis with the Goldstein’s own dog Leigh, Dr. Goldstein began to question the negative and ethical impact of the use of chronic medications and pesticides and the feeding of nutritionally inadequate pet foods. As a result, he and Susan embarked on a holistic mission which led to Earth Animals “Another Way” (Protect & Cause No Harm).
Pet industry-wise, Dr. Goldstein has formulated 100’s of pet products including foods, supplements, remedies and treats. It is his belief that “animals should not be used as a delivery system for a poison for flea and tick prevention.” Dr. Bob’s Natures Protection products are leaders in the industry in a safer, more gentle way for flea and tick prevention. He has formulated his gently processed, humanely sourced Wisdom Dog food, soon to add cat and plant-based options.
Dr. Goldstein is a “veterinary activist” with regards to the protection and humane treatment of factory farmed animals, the reduced reliance on meat for pet foods and treats, pet industry sustainability programs and protection of the environment. Through his Healing Center for Animals practice, Dr. Goldstein has treated thousands of animals with cancer using nutrition as a modality. Many of his protocols are the ingredient basis for Earth Animal products.
With an extensive history in creating and developing SAAS and other cloud-based platforms for the animal health, pet and agricultural industries, Jimmy Haverstick, president of Astro Loyalty, founded Astro to connect and empower the independent retail channel. Originally developed as a service of Focus Technology Group (FTG), a veterinary channel data aggregator co-founded by Haverstick in 2000 to simplify rebates and incentive programs from brands to veterinary clinics, Astro started as a coupon and incentive management portal for pet specialty retailers and veterinary clinics. When FTG was acquired in 2015, Astro was divested and quickly grew into a neighborhood pet retailer loyalty platform, and the rest is history.
Haverstick is driven and passionate about helping neighborhood pet retailers compete against big-box and online retailers. Along with continuing to provide services that take costs out of the independent pet supply chain, Astro delivers a suite of marketing tools with brand-curated digital assets to help Astro pet retailers put their best foot forward. Haverstick is proudest of Astro’s Share the Love (STL) program and My Pet Eats Local initiatives. Introduced during the pandemic to reward consumers with brand-sponsored adoption bundles and Share the Love has been very successful, helping Astro retailers and brands gain new customers and providing newly adopted pets with great products and support from Indy pet retail. My Pets Eats Local embraces and raises awareness of the benefits of Neighborhood Pet Retail: the products, the value and the people.
With Haverstick’s leadership and a dedicated team, Astro has grown to be the industry standard digital clearing house in the pet specialty channel for frequent buyer and coupon incentive programs, serving over 4000 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Heather is the chief commercial officer at Alphia, where she is responsible for sales, customer service, R&D and marketing for Alphia. She has a deep background in pet consumables, and she began her career when the super-premium category was new to the indsutry and was a part of launches for many national brands while working in independent distribution. Govea spent 15 years with Natural Balance Pet Food, playing a role in the pioneering one of the largest brands in the super-premium category. She led Natural Balance through the Del Monte/Big Heart and Smucker’s acquisitions as general manager for the brand through 2016. Govea also served as president of NULO Pet Foods.
Govea began with CJ Foods in 2016 to pioneer the private brands division on behalf of the company. Leveraging her 20 years of experience, she quickly grew the division with pet specialty retailers differentiating the company with a distinguished proposition. She was later tapped to take over sales and marketing with the company and a leadership role as CJ Foods acquired American Nutrition. Stepping into the broader leadership role as chief commercial officer for the newly formed Alphia, she has led the commercial efforts on behalf of the company. Alphia manufactures over a billion pounds of food annually with 12 locations across the United States.
With 25 years of experience in the pet food industry, Mary Helen Horn, president and executive director of ZIWI USA., has made contributions to help shape the category of premium and alternative to raw nutrition. In 2003, she entered her first official role in premium pet food starting as a territory manager for Instinct, known then as Nature’s Variety. Over the next 20 years, she worked steadfast to bring brand awareness and consumer trial for raw and alternative to raw foods and helped forge innovation frontiers in raw, freeze-dried, grain free and kibble.
She joined ZIWI in 2015, when the brand brought a new category of feeding called air-dried to the market. Horn used her experience and in-depth knowledge of the pet industry to turn ZIWI into a leader in the North American market. Her performance-driven cultural has been built from broad experience in sales strategies, customer acquisition, distribution management, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sales, market entry, client management and P&L responsibilities have lent to ZIWI tripling its growth over the past five years.
Horn has built an office where she encourages her team to bring their best to the table every day and promotes a culture that enables them to do so. When you ask her employees what they value about her leadership, they’ll tell you that she is inspiring, dedicated, accommodating, and passionate about her work, and her people. ZIWI is proud to have her as a leading force and is overjoyed for her hard work to be recognized.
Wellness Pet Company
Reed Howlett joined Wellness Pet Company (formerly WellPet) as Chief Executive Officer in 2021 with more than 25 years of relevant experience. He’s held several executive and leadership roles, most notably as the Chief Executive Officer of pet food company Nature’s Variety. In January of 2022, he oversaw WellPet’s renaming to Wellness Pet Company, as the company builds on this commitment across the Wellness family of brands, including WHIMZEES by Wellness, Old Mother Hubbard by Wellness, Good Dog by Wellness and Sojos by Wellness.
As the largest independent premium pet food company in North America, Wellness Pet has continued launching disruptive innovation with differentiated strategies overseen by Reed, especially with fresh food, toppers, and supplements. Millennials and Gen-Z are expected to make up 58 percent of U.S. pet parents by 2025, and Wellness Pet is committed to meeting the needs of today and tomorrow’s pet parent with outcomes driven nutrition at the nexus of nature and science to shape the products that help fulfill a shared life of wellbeing. To support that commitment, Wellness Pet has launched new platforms in 2022 including Good Dog by Wellness, Wellness Bowl Boosters Freshly and WHIMZEES by Wellness Antlers and added a plant-based option to the Wellness CORE Bowl Boosters line.
This past year, Wellness Pet Company has experienced 31 percent growth for its WHIMZEES brand of dog dental chews, 30 percent growth for toppers and mixers, and 40 percent growth for Wellness wet cat, the No. 1 natural wet cat brand on the market.
Michael Landa has been involved in the pet industry for over 20 years. Educated as a biomedical engineer, he also graduated from the UCLA Anderson School of Management with a concentration in Strategic Marketing. In 2001, Landa founded The Pet Staff, a pet-sitting and dog-walking company which quickly grew to become one of the nation’s largest pet services businesses.
While at The Pet Staff, he witnessed firsthand the alarming rate of overweight and diabetic pets resulting from the consumption of high carb, low meat foods. This discovery led to his decision to launch Nulo in 2010 with a line of foods more species appropriate for dogs and cats.
To say the company has grown quickly under Landa’s guidance is an understatement. Nulo, which now has 75 employees, was named to Forbes’ “Top 25 Most Innovative Retail Brand in the U.S.” list and is currently found in over eight countries around the globe.
The company’s record growth has landed Landa a number of awards himself, including winning “Best CEO in Austin” (Mid-cap, Austin Business Journal), Entrepreneur of the Year Winner for Central Texas (Ernst & Young), and Goldman Sach’s prestigious “100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2020” list.
In the past year Nulo’s growth exceeded 40 percent and is forecasting a similar trajectory in 2023. And on the people side, Landa is proud to report that the company was recently recognized as one of the five best employers in the pet industry as a 2022 Best Places to Work honoree.
Chuck Latham Associates / H&C Animal Health
Chuck Latham was raised with a deep love and appreciation for animals. From growing up on a farm outside of Memphis surrounded by a family of veterinarians to his experience as an Animal Sciences major at the University of Tennessee, Chuck’s respect for animals and the veterinary profession shapes his approach to business and entrepreneurship.
In 1984, he founded Chuck Latham Associates (CLA) to help pet manufacturers navigate and sell to the U.S. pet specialty market. While a lot has changed in the pet marketplace over the past 40 years, CLA has continued to innovate and thrive, evolving into a deep and diversified organization with a leadership team with over 100 years of pet industry experience.
In 2013, Latham leveraged his extensive industry expertise to create H&C Animal Health, bringing the most innovative, highly effective and clinically proven products from veterinary to over-the-counter retail. H&C’s portfolio of vet-formulated products and represented vet brands showcase the company’s commitment to pet health and wellness. Today the company features many prominent brands, including Angels’ Eyes, bSerene, Vet Water and ActivPhy. Latham is focused on meeting pet parents’ needs and is busy developing innovative solutions and products that will launch in 2023 and beyond.
Guided by Latham’s stewardship, H&C Animal Health has appeared annually on the Inc. 5000 list three times since 2019 as one of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies. Additionally, Latham has been chairman of the American Pet Products Association (APPA) board of directors since 2021. Latham and the organization are also involved in philanthropic efforts, including sponsorships of WaterHope, Pets in the Classroom, Hope Haven Rwanda, Von’s Vision and The First Tee of Tampa Bay.
World Pet Association (WPA)
Founded in 1950, World Pet Association (WPA) is the pet industry’s oldest nonprofit organization. Vic Mason, president of WPA, leads the organization in producing industry-defining trade shows SuperZoo and GROOM’D (formerly Atlanta Pet Fair and Conference).
Additionally launched under Mason’s leadership, WPA365 is a robust online community and Professional Grooming Credential offers recognition of skills in the practice of pet grooming.
SuperZoo boasts the most buyer participation of any trade show for the pet retail industry in North America. For the tenth consecutive year, SuperZoo has grown in exhibitor space and square footage and has been listed among Trade Show Executive’s “Gold 100” trade events since 2014.
SuperZoo 2022 hosted over 9,500 buyers – 14 percent international and 26 percent U.S. East Coast –who shopped the 331,503 sq ft trade show floor offering 1,023 exhibitors and a New Product Showcase filled with 900 products.
Through WPA’s Good Works program, proceeds from these events are funneled back into key industry organizations and nonprofits with the goal of making it easier for pet industry professionals to do business. Over $6 million has been donated by WPA.
Mason leads WPA in its mission is to support the business needs of pet retailers and to promote responsible growth and development of the pet industry by providing thought leadership on consumer and legislative issues and provide business resources, education, content and services to ensure pet product retailers have the support they need to be competitive.
Blaine McPeak, CEO of Champion Petfoods, is humbled and honored to share this recognition with the nearly 800 Champions around the world, whose contributions advanced the company’s business initiatives and leadership position in premium pet foods. The Champion team recognizes the opportunity in front of them, and they bring their best each day to help the company achieve its purpose: To Earn Pet Lover Trust Every Day so Pets Thrive for a Lifetime.
With this team-oriented mindset, Champion has successfully navigated a challenging external environment while still delivering accelerated global revenue and market share growth.
In the past year, McPeak and his team at Champion have propelled the entire business forward, and their highlights include:
- Landing its ORIJEN and ACANA premium pet food brands in more pet lover households than ever before
- Donating a record number of meals from the company to animal shelters around the world supporting pets in nee
- Forging a research partnership with the University of Guelph to advance the study of pet nutrition
- Further innovating by developing Biologically Appropriate wet foods for cats and dogs.
The entire Champion team has also deepened its focus on sustainability, by establishing goals across three core areas – including waste reduction, responsible sourcing and recyclable packaging. Combined, this will have a lasting impact on the environment for future generations of pets and pet lovers and is part of the organization’s commitment to the world around us – all of which is featured in Champion’s inaugural Impact Report.
Jaime McKinley is president of W.F. Young, a 130-year-old, family-owned global leader in animal health products that include such iconic brands as Absorbine, The Missing Link and Silver Honey. As a fifth-generation family member and 30-year company veteran, Jaime’s passion for innovation and growth has cultivated an environment that attracts and retains employees who share her goal of providing the best possible products for her customers and partners, all while maintaining the personal touches of a family-owned business.
Beginning as a brand manager in 1992, she earned the position of president in 2021 through hard work and dedication, as well as compassion for her peers. During her time in leadership roles, she has been responsible for double digit growth, several strategic acquisitions, as well as the development and launch of over 25 new products.
As president, she brought a change to the in-office environment by prioritizing the health and wellness of employees. McKinley’s attributes the company’s success to a healthy workplace culture fostered by the C.A.R.E. values of Collaboration, Accountability, Respect and Enthusiasm. She has cultivated a caring and equitable culture to empower creativity, continuous improvement, and speed to market to foster break-through innovations.
As a female leader, McKinley says she is proud of the company’s success as a family business: “Our legacy and heritage are important, but what’s most important is where we’re going. It’s the vision that we have for being the most trusted name in animal care that will allow us to constantly strive to be better, do better and care more. We can stand on the years of experience and that commitment to quality, but it’s really important that we’re taking all of that and being more forward thinking about the role that innovation plays in providing better solutions for our customers and for pets. We’ve been committed to that for a long time, and we will be for generations into the future.”
Matt Meeker is the co-founder, CEO, and Executive Chairman of BARK, the company behind BarkBox. He served as CEO of the company from its foundation until September 2020 and resumed the role of CEO in January 2022.
Since launching with the monthly subscription service BarkBox in 2012, BARK has experienced rapid growth through product enhancement and revenue diversification. Meeker led the company to design and create unique, dog-first products, experiences and content, carrying the success of BARK’s subscription model into new distribution channels, including e-commerce, retail and food.
Once back into the role as CEO in 2022, Meeker led the company to launch a breed-specific food line that caters to their needs such as personality quirks, conditions and eating styles. The company has expanded its retail partnerships which includes Tractor Supply, and released new licensed toys such as Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Stranger Things, The Office and more.
For the last 70 (dog) years, BARK has offered dog customers the same price for their entire lives. This means if you sign up for the savings and the convenience of regular deliveries, we’ll guarantee you’ll pay the same price forever. Inflation sucks, and our dogs should be protected from rising prices.
Prior to BARK, Meeker was entrepreneur-in-residence at DogPatch Labs, a startup incubator run by Polaris Ventures. He is an integral component of the New York startup community acting as board member or advisor to multiple early-stage companies. He currently serves as a Venture Partner at Resolute VC. In 2002, he co-founded Meetup, the largest network of local communities that meet offline about shared interests and passions.
Packer Mellem Sales
Rob Mellem is the founder and owner of Packer Mellem Sales, established in 2014. Coming out of a national sales manager position with a brand that had just been purchased, Rob decided to form a talented group of outside sales reps that would sell a small collection of brands. Those brands (Northwest Naturals, Bixbi, Open Farm, Earth Rated and Tall Tails) saw significant growth and even became leaders in their respective categories, all while dodging the steep cost of a direct sales team. This allowed the brands to put more resources back into product development, ingredients and inventory (which stores love).
In late 2021, while watching acquisitions change the landscape of the pet industry, Rob co-founded the brand Ndependent, along with partners Rusty Hawes and Jeff Sandy. Ndependent was created for the independent pet specialty channel only. No big box. No online. No false promises. Within the first 12 months, Ndependent is just a few states shy of national distribution.
In the spring of 2022, Momentum Carnivore Nutrition reached a deal with Rob to become co-owner of the brand. Wanting to give back to those that have helped him over the years, Mellem gave chunks of equity to Packer Mellem’s first three employees: Liz Schmitt, Greg Perkins and Travis Askinasi. Mellem has declared that national distribution for Momentum will be achieved within the next 12 months.
Giving back and making sure that people know their worth is a top priority for Mellem. He knows that he would not be where he is without the amazing people in his life.
Pet Palette Distribution
In less than four years of being employed with Maryland-based Pet Palette Distribution, Ron Metzger has led the business through foundational restructuring, exponential growth and a complete company rebrand that has planted it firmly as one of the industry’s most recognizable and trusted national pet supply distributors. Pet Palette Distribution’s commitment to independent pet has shaped them into a unique, non-traditional, omnichannel organization that partners with brands who are equally focused on fostering the success of independent retailers.
Metzger joined the company in 2019 as vice president of operations and took the helm as president and COO in August of 2020. Pet Palette Distribution saw record growth and profitability figures in 2021, Metzger’s first full year of running the company. In January of 2022 he officially became the CEO where his constant focus is on building a business plan that meets the ever-changing needs of their customers.
Metzger’s tenure at Pet Palette Distribution is preceded by a 35-year career in both revitalizing and launching organizations in veterinary, pet supply and other retail and distribution spaces. In his personal time, he has an affinity for woodcarving, horses, Aussies and tigers – of which he sponsors several – at his favorite tiger sanctuary.
Freshpet’s co-founder and president Scott Morris introduced pet parents to fresh, refrigerated pet food in 2006 and continues to help drive the growing consumer demand for the company through innovation. Freshpet has single-handedly developed the fresh food category in North America, and now sells in more than 27,000 Freshpet refrigerators across the U.S., Canada and Europe, with sales exceeding $500 million and growing at over 30 percent. Morris is most proud of building an enduring company based on core principles and values he learned during his 25-year career in consumer-packaged goods (CPG).
Morris continues to bring an entrepreneurial spirit from his previous and current ventures. In addition to being involved in all aspects of the company, he has helped Freshpet lead with way in the industry with regards to sustainability. This year, he championed the refresh of its Nature’s Fresh line, making it one of the most sustainable dog foods on the market. It is fully carbon neutral, plastic neutral, features certified humanely raised protein and has a goal to be 100 percent regeneratively sourced by 2025. He has also helped in opening the company’s newest and most sustainable kitchen in Ennis, Texas, which will continue to help support the company’s long-term growth.
Morris describes the following as what drives him to do better: creating great products, supporting pets in need by donating nearly 13 million meals, and doing good in the world. The results prove that this has served Freshpet well.
KLN Family Brands
Charlie Nelson is the CEO of KLN Family Brands, a manufacturer of pet foods, snacks and candies based in Perham, MN. He joined the company in 2002 rising through the ranks of the third-generation family-owned business.
Charlie’s initial role was as a sales manager where he quickly identified a need for more nutritious pet food products. NutriSource Pet Foods was launched in 2003 and under Charlie’s guidance has grown into a national brand sold at over 6,000 independent retailers nationally.
In 2009, Charlie assumed a leadership role at KLN’s Barrel O’ Fun division in Phoenix, AZ. Charlie then returned to Perham in 2012 and worked closely with his father, Kenny, as vice president of KLN Family Brands. He was named president of KLN in 2015 and CEO in 2020.
Charlie has lead investments into expanding and modernizing KLN’s core businesses, Tuffy’s Pet Foods and Kenny’s Candy & Confections. He also spearheaded Tuffy’s Treat Company, a new venture in Delano, MN which opened in November 2020 and produces high quality pet treats and has provided over 100 new jobs to the area.
Today, as CEO of KLN Family Brands, Charlie overseas thriving businesses that employ over 900 employees. He works closely with the sales teams, focusing on growing the branded side of the businesses. Charlie also works directly with key private label, co-manufacturing customers and negotiates contracts and partnerships.
KLN Family Brands is driven by a passion to give back and make a positive difference for others. A portion of every product sold is put back into the community, and a portion from their new NutriSource SuperStars dog treats is donated to various charities and worthy causes across the country. They also recently acquired Finley’s dog treats and works to continue their mission of providing paid employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities through their ambassador program.
NutriSouce has recently partnered with Solders 6, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Minnesota, that is making a difference by providing service dogs for veterans and service men and women. These specially trained service dogs are called their Battle Buddies and help provide life-changing support and guidance as they navigate through difficult days in their life.
A family-owned business established in 1965 in St. Petersburg, Florida, Glo-Marr has always been a part of Steve Nicolosi’s life. After school and summer breaks were where he developed an appreciation for manufacturing and respect for the challenges of running a business. His father, Fred Nicolosi, established their commitment to manufacturing in the pet industry.
In 1986, Glo-Marr relocated to Kentucky to be more centralized in the U.S. Nicolosi moved to Kentucky in 2003 in order to be a more integral part of the company. Glo-Marr continues to manufacture iconic house brands: Kenic, Balance, Barktini and Kenic Retro.
Today, Glo-Marr is a leader in the private label sector. Manufacturing for many top brands in multiple selling channels and platforms domestically as well as exporting worldwide is a big factor for continued growth. The demand for private label exploded throughout the COVID timeframe. The marketplace totally changed, and Glo-Marr had to change how did they operated. No longer could businesses rely on the JIT system. Glo-Marr re-evaluated everything from ordering components to dealing with new COVID standards in the workplace. Staffing shortages, supply chain issues, long lead times forced Nicolosi become more aware of the value of relationships. Lengthy relationships with his vendors made navigating the “new normal” easier. COVID also reinforced the importance of having a great relationship with their crew. Nicolosi views the staff at Glo-Marr like an extended family, and he states the following: “Taking care of them is priority. They’re the key to our success.”
Nicolosi says he looks forward to growing Glo-Marr Products reach throughout the world by continuing what his father started. Making great products with great people.
FROMM Family Foods
Bryan Nieman represents the fifth generation of his family business. As brand director at Fromm Family Foods, Nieman works alongside his immediate family including parents Tom and Kathy and brother Dan, continuing the tradition of quiet innovation in the pet food industry. Nieman grew up with and around Fromm, working summer and school breaks on the packaging line and grounds as an adolescent and working weekends as a demo rep and demo rep manger while earning his college degree in Digital Arts and Animation. During and after college, Nieman would go on to assume roles in IT, web development, and graphic design at Fromm while also working for a Milwaukee based ad agency to gain outside experience.
Today, Niemanis a valued member of the sales, marketing and leadership teams in addition to learning core aspects of the overall business to one day take the helm and continue the tradition of family stewardship alongside his brother. Nieman has been critical to the development of digital tools to empower and support neighborhood pet retailers ranging from dedicated webpages called “microsites” as well as a data-driven “buy” button which effectively turns the Fromm website into a shopping website to hand the sale directly to neighborhood pet stores. He also spearheaded the Fromm Heritage Tour with his cousin Alexis, an annual event series that welcomes retailers and distributors alike to share in an immersive three-day experience focusing on Fromm history, products, culture and beyond.
Nieman is a proud husband, father to three young girls, pet parent to dog Izzy (14) and cat Kingston (15), and they all live in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
Laura Olsen’s fierce sense of responsibility has been her guiding light since she began her career. She studied International Affairs at George Washington University with one big idea: to make the world a better place. Olsen claims that, after working in politics, she never imagined that she would find herself making a positive impact as the leader of the U.S. Petcare business at the leading animal health company. Since taking the helm in January 2020, Laura has inspired her team to deliver outstanding performance for Zoetis’ largest business unit and has overseen key product launches including Simparica Trio, the first triple combination parasiticide monthly chewable for dogs in the U.S., and this year Solensia, an injectable monoclonal antibody therapy administered monthly to control feline osteoarthritis pain.
Throughout her 12 years at Zoetis, beginning in marketing, Laura has played key roles in developing and executing strategies to bring innovative products to market – among them, Apoquel, which was paradigm-changing for veterinary dermatology. She is driven by a love for marketing and communicating with customers, identifying their needs, and delivering meaningful solutions for them, all paired with her love of animals.
Olsen is passionate about the human-animal bond and the key role veterinary healthcare teams play in strengthening that bond. She is a board member of both the Diversify Veterinary Medicine Coalition (DVMC) and Pumpkin Pet Insurance, and she is a steadfast supporter of mentoring and helping develop women as future leaders.
Phillips Pet Food & Supplies
When Blaine Phillips rejoined the company that his family founded in 1938, he was on a mission to enhance Phillips Pet Food & Supplies position as the premier national distributor in the Pet Industry. To achieve this, he needed to assemble a leadership team that would support, drive and accelerate his mission. Now in place, the Phillips leadership team consists of legacy leaders with deep industry knowledge along with top distribution executives from outside of the pet specialty channel.
According to Phillips, he believes that “Combining our new leadership team with our existing seasoned group of Phillips associates has created what I believe is the strongest team that I have worked with in my many years at Phillips”.
Blaine Phillips knew that the key to achieving excellence was only possible through strengthening relationships with Phillips manufacturers and retailer partners. Taking care of customers is the foundation of what his grandfather and father built the company upon. He is proud to be a member of a team of approximately 1,200 employees across 18 distribution centers and logistics facilities providing impeccable service to Phillips’ partners. Upon his return to the helm, Blaine Phillips reestablished the industry premier Phillips Retailer Buying Shows across the country to facilitate relationship building and product placement opportunities developed from the interaction between retailers, manufacturers and Phillips associates coming together in person.
Today, Phillips Pet Food & Supplies has a nationwide footprint servicing 14,000+ retailers with more than 350 brands along with cold chain capabilities. Blaine Phillips’ commitment to pioneering channel expansion has led to new and exciting vendor relationships and expanded product portfolios for retailers to take advantage of regionally and nationally. With a focus on technology, he has invested in proprietary digital solutions and multiple service models to provide both vendor and retailer partners with flexibility and growth opportunities.
Blaine Phillips believes in giving back to the communities in which Phillips serves and to the environment as well as pet industry partners. He and the Phillips team are proud to be working with groups like the Greater Good, supporting the relief efforts for those effected in the Ukraine as well as on disasters like Hurricane Ian. Phillips is also proud to partner with the Pet Sustainability Coalition as their first accredited distributor within the pet industry.
The Honest Kitchen
Lucy Postins is an outspoken pioneer in the pet food industry, having created the world’s first FDA verified human-grade pet food in her San Diego kitchen in 2002. She recently spearheaded The Honest Kitchen’s successful endeavor to become a Certified B Corporation, which will serve as a framework for its future growth and conscientious decision-making. Policies that the company has implemented as part of its B Corp certification include the prioritization of minority and women-owned and operated suppliers, increased local sourcing, further reductions in environmental impact through packaging and distribution choices, tracking and continual improvement of workforce diversity (especially at management levels within the organization), further improved animal welfare standards and integration of even more organic and certified Fair Trade ingredients.
Postins has also overseen the company’s initiative to transition to GAP (Global Animal Partnership) animal welfare certification for the chicken used in a number of its recipes and implemented policies to prioritize female and minority owned suppliers for its ingredients, increased solar-powered production, and continue to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at The Honest Kitchen. The Honest Kitchen successfully raised $150 milion in minority investment funding earlier this year, significantly expanded production at its Topeka, Kansas, and Chicago, Illinois, facilities and most recently relocated to new offices in Sab Diego’s Mission Valley. The company employs 70 people across the country with many dozens of other jobs created in ancillary supply chain, distribution and production.
Postins is a companion animal nutritionist who grew up in the UK and received her bachelor’s degree in Equine & Business Studies from Moreton Morrell College of Agriculture. She immigrated to the United States in 1998 and started The Honest Kitchen in her own kitchen in 2002, following a career of several years in the traditional pet food industry. Passionate about nutrition and holistic health, Postins is considered an expert in her field. She participates in public speaking engagements, radio and television interviews, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners. She has also authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love, and Made Out of Love, a book of make-at-home pet food recipes.
Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA)
Celeste Powers, CAE, continues as president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), a role in which she has served since late 2018, but with a slight twist. In 2022, PIDA’s board of directors decided to outsource its day-to-day administration responsibilities from an association management company (AMC) to dedicated full-time employees. Powers helped PIDA usher in a new era by spearheading the transition to a fully independent organization while still at the helm.
Outside management had been a successful business model for PIDA for many years. However, the event revenue lost during the COVID pandemic forced PIDA’s board to look at ways to create efficiencies that would save money for its members. Moving management in house allowed PIDA to lock in Powers’ hands-on leadership and her commitment to helping the industry adapt and evolve.
One of Powers’ first accomplishments at PIDA was to maximize the value of the Pet Industry Leadership Summit (The Summit), increasing sponsorship sales by 80 percent in 2020. After being held digitally in 2021, The Summit’s 2022 attendance rebounded to 80 percent of pre-COVID levels — despite taking place in January during the Omicron resurgence. With Powers on board to maintain a cycle of continuous improvement, the pet care community can expect 2023 to only get better.
Open Farm / Canada Pooch
Jacqueline Prehogan is a co-founder and senior leader at two of the pet industry’s most influential, high-growth brands: Open Farm and Canada Pooch. As the CEO and founder of Canada Pooch, a leading pet lifestyle brand that designs premium apparel and functional gear for pets and their parents, she drives the company’s strategic direction, with a focus on brand and innovation strategy, as well as oversees business execution. She also is the chief brand officer and co-founder of Open Farm, a premium and ethically sourced pet food brand committed to raising the bar on the way we feed our pets. In this role, she is focused on championing the brand’s mission and core values, guiding strategic brand direction, and enhancing the company’s culture.
Prehogan has made it a point to redefine industry standards in terms of quality, innovation, and sustainability. She has led Open Farm’s mission since the company’s inception in 2014, and set out to prove that Open Farm can make better pet food while having a positive impact on farm animals and the environment. To do that, she led the development of Open Farm’s extensive farm animal welfare program in partnership with leading animal welfare organizations Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership, as well as the company’s first-of-its kind farm-to-bowl transparency initiatives. More recently, she has instituted major, industry-leading environmental programs at the company, including its Science Based Targets commitment to reduce emissions by 42 percent by 2030. She has also integrated sustainability and innovation by establishing Open Farm’s Zero Waste to Landfill program which creates a path out of landfill for 100 percent of its consumer packaging and supply chain waste, its regenerative agriculture program which will be rolled out across existing and new farm partners, and its new Kind Earth line which offers plant and insect-based pet foods.
Prehogan has implemented the same game-changer approach to Canada Pooch’s business strategy. With a growth mindset and focus on functional solutions, Jacqueline has identified whitespace opportunities for Canada Pooch to better meet the needs of pet parents. For example, Jacqueline identified the cooling category as a white space, and has since positioned the company as the leader in this category. She is also driving industry-leading innovation in dog walking, paw protection and soon-to-be released calming solutions. Jaqueline has also been focused on positioning Canada Pooch as a leader in sustainable innovation within the pet hard goods category. Within the last two years, the company has released over a dozen “eco styles” made from fully recycled and deadstock fabrics and trims, and has established refurbishment and donation programs to extend the life of products. The company is also focused on minimizing waste streams and is transitioning to 100 percent recyclable packaging (to be completed by 2023), as well as a concerted effort to further minimize its already low fabric wastage in production. Finally, the company is using technology to reduce sample and transportation waste by implementing advanced 3D design software to substantially reduce the number of physical samples required in product development.
In 2008, following the melamine pet food recall, Rachael Ray partnered with Ainsworth Pet Nutrition to develop a line of premium pet food and treats called Rachael Ray Nutrish. In 2018, The J.M. Smucker company acquired Rachael Ray Nutrish pet food, maintaining the brand’s commitment to nutrition, taste, and innovation as well as its commitment to helping animals through The Rachael Ray Foundation.
Proceeds from each sale of Rachael Ray Nutrish are used to fund The Rachael Ray Foundation which helps animals in need. Through February 28, 2022, more than $66m has been given to help animals in need through The Rachael Ray Foundation and its predecessor entity.
Funds given by The Rachael Ray Foundation are used by animal welfare organizations across the country to help animals including through support for spay/neuter programs, transport programs, intake diversion programs and medical care programs for both unowned animals and those waiting to be adopted. The Foundation has also provided funding to help animals impacted by disasters including hurricanes, floods and wildfires as well as during the Covid-19 pandemic.
To help animals in need during the pandemic, The Foundation established the Rachael Ray Save Them All Grants COVID-19 Relief Program at Best Friends Animal Society, a charitable organization that helped administer grants to other animal welfare organizations across the country to help offset some of the worst effects of the pandemic. The Rachael Ray Save Them All Grants COVID-19 Relief Program was part of a collective effort by Rachael Ray philanthropies, which includes The Rachael Ray Foundation and The Yum-o! Organization, to help support families, both four-legged and two-legged during the pandemic.
Chris Rowland has led Pet Supplies Plus and its team members to record growth since his appointment to Chief Executive Officer in October 2014, and his strategy is a simple one: deliver a dazzling experience, outstanding value and incredible convenience to every neighbor who walks into our stores.
Rowland is a seasoned pet industry veteran, having pawed his way up the corporate ladder at PetSmart from 1996 to 2011 and making a name for himself in retail operation. Starting as a store manager in Toronto, he worked his way up to Vice President, US Operations and, ultimately, President of PetSmart Canada, where he and his turnaround team transformed the struggling retail chain into the largest and most profitable pet specialty retailer in Canada.
Rowland earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Most notably to team members at Pet Supplies Plus, Chris is “Dad” to white umbrella Cockatoo, Phoebe, which is known for being the company’s attention-loving, sweet-talking “Chief Bird Officer.”
Merck Animal Health
Dr. Christine Royal understands the importance of promoting stronger animal welfare practices and advocating for mental health and well-being resources for veterinary professionals. She spent the first six years of her career navigating the fast pace and diverse challenges of a small veterinary practice before joining Merck Animal Health in 2014. In just six years’ time, Dr. Royal was appointed the first female lead for Merck Animal Health’s U.S. Companion Animal and Equine Business Unit.
In her current position as vice president, Dr. Royal oversees efforts to promote best medicine and best business across veterinary practices, as well as serve as an advocate for the importance of mental health and wellbeing among veterinary professionals. She manages an organization of more than 400 colleagues and has achieved multiple year business growth ahead of the industry.
Most recently, Dr. Royal and her team collaborated with AVMF on the animal welfare crisis in the war zones of Ukraine, helped strengthen and support veterinary student scholarship programs and worked with AVMA and AAHA on empowerment initiatives to help veterinary professionals balance rigorous demands on their time. She also oversees the donation program for Merck Animal Health vaccines and collaborates with The Street Dog Coalition, a nonprofit that provides free medical care and other services to at-risk and homeless pets. In all her work, Dr. Royal demonstrates her passion, love, and unconditional support for animals and those who care for them.
Dr. Royal holds active licenses in Alabama and Tennessee and is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and Association for Talent Development. In addition, she advocates for programs that help cultivate leaders in veterinary practice and collaborates across the industry to enhance and expand care and welfare of pets through the AVMA’s Coalition for Connected Veterinary Care.
Diamond Pet Foods
Michele Sayles, executive director of food safety and quality with Diamond Pet Foods, has been an integral member of the Diamond family since 2012. Throughout her career, Dr. Sayles has made important contributions to pet food safety both at Diamond and as an industry expert. She has served in leadership roles in industry trade organizations such as the Pet Food Alliance and the Pet Food Institute, where she sat on advisory boards and chaired food safety committees.
As part of her commitment to pet food safety, Dr. Sayles worked with cutting edge technologies and most recently has been using metagenomics as a tool to map the environmental microbiomes at Diamond Pet Foods’ production facilities. This mapping allows Diamond to better understand and control the individual environments in which pet foods are produced so they can continue to provide safe products to consumers and their pets. This December, Dr. Sayles will bring her knowledge of microbiomes and metagenomics to Washington, D.C., where she will present at the fifth annual Food Safety and Microbiology Conference hosted by Pet Food Institute.
Dr. Sayles not only revolutionized the safety measures taken at Diamond Pet Foods’ production facilities, but she also assists the pet food industry with the development of food safety regulations. Her dedication to animal health and food safety have helped Diamond Pet Foods to continue to be a driving force in the pet food industry.
American Pet Products Association (APPA)
Peter Scott is a seasoned association executive who has developed a reputation for leading transformational change, driving product innovation, and building strong cultures of empowerment and accountability that consistently exceed expectations. His ability to merge creative strategy, business acumen and governance has earned him the ear of those at some of the world’s largest organizations.
As CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Scott helps lead the Association toward its mission of advancing the pet industry by elevating the global pet care community and promoting responsible pet ownership. His vision to unite the pet care community and amplify its voice is driven by making life easier and more enjoyable for the pet industry’s ultimate target audience: pets and their owners.
A proven leader with more than 20 years of experience, Scott served as CEO of the American Academy of Optometry before joining APPA. Prior to that, he spent more than six years as chief operating officer of the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing veterinary professionals worldwide.
Throughout his career, Scott has earned numerous awards and accolades, including the PRSA Silver Anvil and Radiance Awards, Brand Hall Excellence in eLearning Award, multiple Forbes Best of Web and Webby Awards, as well as the Technology and Learning Magazine’s Award of Excellence. He also was recognized as one of Orlando Business Journal’s CEOs of the Year in 2021.
Todd Simmons is the third-generation leader of family-owned Simmons Foods and Affiliates, based in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Today, the company has a team of more than 9,000 and includes three vertically integrated business units: Simmons Pet Food, Simmons Prepared Foods and Simmons Animal Nutrition, with combined sales of more than $2.35 billion in 2021. The company is built upon strong values and entrepreneurial spirit, beginning with founder M.H. “Bill” Simmons, followed by Mark Simmons and continuing today with Todd Simmons.
He joined the family business in the 1990s as an hourly employee and worked his way through the company, joining the leadership team in 1996 and becoming CEO in 2012. During his tenure, Simmons Pet Food has become the largest private label wet pet food producer in North America, with revenue projected to hit $1 billion in 2022, up from $190 million in 2010.
In early 2020, Simmons brought in Scott Salmon to lead the growing pet food division. With a reputation for building high-performing teams and responding to shifting consumer habits, Salmon’s arrival was well-timed as the dynamic conditions of the pandemic began to ripple across the industry and Simmons prepared to launch the largest strategic expansion in the company’s history.
In July, as part of the company’s $500 million strategic growth plan, Simmons Pet Food announced plans for a fourth high-speed canning line at its Emporia, Kansas, facility; a new pet food distribution facility in Edgerton, Kansas; and the start-up of the second production line for canned pet food at its Dubuque, Iowa, facility. Earlier in the year, the company completed its exit from the dry pet food and pet treats categories as part of a strategic plan to focus solely on wet pet food.
Under Simmons’ leadership, the company was recognized in 2021 by Forbes Magazine as one of America’s Best Mid-sized Employers, capturing the top ranking in the Food and Beverage category. The company’s strong safety culture, industry-leading benefits and commitment to investing in education and community propelled it to the top of the list.
Simmons’ innovative spirit plays out in and beyond the food industry as vice-chair of Signature Bank of Arkansas; board chair for Namida Lab, a cancer diagnostic testing firm based in Fayetteville, Arkansas; co-founder and general partner of Natural Capital LLC, a heartland focused private equity fund; and serving on the boards of the National Chicken Council, the Razorback Foundation, TheaterSquared, Northwest Arkansas Council and Endeavor Global of Northwest Arkansas.
Mars Pet Nutrition
Mars Petcare, part of Mars, Incorporated, is a global, family-owned business with nearly 50 brands serving the health and nutritional needs of the world’s pets, guided by the company’s Five Principles and a shared purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. Together with 19,000+ associates across the globe, Singh is responsible to lead, grow and continuously transform the world’s largest pet food maker to provide access to quality nutrition for nearly 400 million pets each year. Singh is committed to fostering a people-first culture, empowering high performing, inclusive teams to continue building and evolving its brands, business, and the pet industry at large for sustainable growth.
Appointed global president in May 2022, Singh’s journey with Mars started in 2020 as Pet Nutrition’s regional president for North America. Under his leadership, the business saw its largest organic growth in recent history, thanks to a focus on digital transformation, innovation that puts the needs of pet parents at the center, and cultivating a diverse, inclusive workplace for Associates.
This year, he led his team of talented Associates to:
- Make a more welcoming world for people and pets by expanding a collaboration with global hospitality leader Hilton to enhance pet-friendly travel, while creating more pet-friendly workplaces with the CESAR HIRE MY DOG program.
- Scale and promote pet adoption through the PEDIGREE brand’s partnership with Brazilian soccer team Palmeiras and Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Sustainably source 100% of the fish used in Mars pet food brands across Europe.
- Move into NFTs to help further the SHEBA brand’s coral reef restoration efforts.
- Launch the first DTC experience for GREENIES on Greenies.com.
- Build momentum for CESAR® WHOLESOME BOWLS, resulting in a Product of the Year recognition.
Singh was named to Forbes’ 2021 “CEO Next” list, and this is his second year being recognized on Pet Age’s Power 50 list. He serves on the Wharton Baker Retailing Center Advisory Board and is a member of the Young Presidents Organization and Fast Company’s Impact Council.
Dr. Steven Solomon is the director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). He was appointed to this role in January 2017. He is a former private practice veterinarian and career public health regulatory official who has worked to protect human and animal health at the FDA for more than 30 years.
He brings a versatile background to his leadership role at CVM with experience in policy, public health, regulatory affairs, enforcement and, of course, veterinary medicine. He joined the FDA in 1990 as a veterinary medical officer in CVM and has served in various policy and leadership positions in the Office of Regulatory Affairs’ Office of Enforcement, Office of Regional Operations, and as deputy associate commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. He also served in the Office of Global Regulatory Operations and Policy.
Dr. Solomon is a champion of the One Health approach to addressing public health problems, which recognizes the interconnection between the health of people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. He is co-lead of FDA’s One Health Initiative and advocates for use of the One Health approach to contribute to a better understanding of zoonotic diseases, translational medicine, foodborne illness in both people in animals, antimicrobial resistance, and other public and animal health challenges.
Dr. Solomon has a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State University and a Master’s in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.
J.K. Symancyk became president and CEO of PetSmart, and a member of the company’s board of directors, in June 2018. As a veteran in the consumer retail industry with more than 25 years of experience managing complex retail operations, he is a transformational leader – in improving both organizational performance and team culture by nurturing talent and developing leaders.
At PetSmart, Symancyk leads more than 50,000 associates and 1,660 store locations of North America’s leading pet specialty retailer, where the business has grown more than 40 percent over the last four years, and he has improved associate engagement. With his leadership, PetSmart has also extended its commitment to belonging, diversity and inclusion, now supporting six associate resource groups, and has increased its investment in training and benefits for all associates. He currently serves as chairman of PetSmart Charites, which is the leading funder of animal welfare in communities across North America and is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Board of Directors and the Bath & Body Works Board of Directors.
Symancyk and his wife have two children and are pet parents to two dogs: Stella, a Havanese, and Harper, a Great Pyrenees mix.
Nate Thomas, CEO and co-founder of BSM Partners, has 27 years of experience in the pet industry. BSM is the leading full-service pet industry research and consulting firm, supporting hundreds of like-minded clients that are committed to improving the lives of pets.
Under Nate’s leadership, this purpose-driven company has undertaken several initiatives to help support and strengthen the pet industry. BSM’s Young Entrepreneur Mentorship Program guides emerging young business leaders, providing pro-bono advice and support on matters such as product innovation, formula development, marketing, business development, employee development, organizational development, executive coaching, and more.
The firm is a founding sponsor and longtime champion of IndiePet, a group created to support thousands of independent and neighborhood pet retailers across North America. BSM provides substantially discounted services to IndiePet members.
BSM has also taken the lead on independent research related to animal health and nutrition, utilizing their expertise to tackle key scientific issues for the benefit of pets and their owners. The firm’s work on canine DCM has already been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals and is ongoing. Groundbreaking papers tackling various aspects of animal health are also in development. In recognition of these efforts, BSM professionals, including veterinarians and board-certified veterinary nutritionists, are regularly sought out to present their findings at leading academic and industry gatherings.
BSM recently topped Pet Age’s inaugural list of the Best Places to Work in the Pet Industry and has quickly become one of the most sought-after companies to work for in the industry. The philosophy of BSM’s leadership members has been and always will be to continue building a company that they themselves would want to work for. This has helped drive the firm’s consistent growth and allowed them to recruit and retain industry-leading professionals that share BSM’s vision of bringing positive change to the pet industry by making pets the priority over the bottom line.
Camp Bow Wow
Julie Turner, who started with Camp Bow Wow in 2014, provides the strategic leadership needed to help the brand grow and maintain its leadership in the Pet Care category. As president, her priorities are to amplify unit level revenue and profitability with her focus on new technologies and implementing operational efficiencies. Through her longstanding relationships with the franchise owners, Turner fosters a collaborative culture that leverages their insights to fuel innovation for the brand.
One of Turner’s many recent accomplishments has been to lead Camp Bow Wow out of the company’s most difficult period since its founding, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and changing pet parent needs and habits. She was able to maintain Camp Bow Wow’s leadership position as the world’s largest dog day care and boarding franchise and saw a dramatic rebound with a 20 percent increase in dog visits compared to pre-pandemic levels. In 2021, the system reached a total revenue high of over $160 million and had record-breaking acquisition. The top 25 percent of Camps achieved average unit revenue of $1,304,404 and owner’s discretionary income of 21 percent of revenue. Camp Bow Wow reached a company milestone in 2022 with the opening of its 200th Camp, joining fewer than 10 percent of franchise brands that have reached this size. Camp Bow Wow hosted an event in celebration of the milestone which received local and national media coverage.
Before her role as president, Turner served as vice president of marketing and provided strategic leadership for all brand marketing, communications and program development. Before Camp Bow Wow, Turner held various roles with Dish Network and Whirlpool, where she gained experience in many functions including business strategy, operations, product development and technology. She is a huge dog lover and can regularly be found distributing treats to all the office pups. She also admits that she isn’t even remotely ashamed of how much she spoils her pup, Sadie, a mini golden doodle.
Wendy Wen is an entrepreneur and former finance professional. She is the founder and CEO of Antelope, an omni-channel pet consumer platform focused on delivering high-quality, natural pet products via a buy-and-build strategy. Wen partnered with Alpine Investors, a people-driven private equity firm committed to building enduring businesses, to allocate $100-150 million in capital to this venture.
Wen launched Antelope with the vision of it becoming an omni-channel platform focused on delivering high-quality, natural pet products and services via a buy-and-build strategy. She has successfully seen Antelope through a series of fundraising as well as the company’s four acquisitions. Most recently, Ark Naturals is Antelope’s fourth acquisition and will join Antelope’s suite of pet brands: Bocce’s Bakery, an all-natural, limited ingredients pet treats and supplements brand, Diggin’ Your Dog and Super Snouts, a leading supplier of high quality pet CBD supplements, health products and treats, and Doggo, nationwide digital insurance and training services provider for dogs and cats.
Wen was previously the co-founder and COO of SENREVE, a digitally native, omni-channel luxury handbag brand where she raised more than $23 million in funding and built the business to a globally recognized brand in less than five years. Wen started her career in finance and investing at The Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs, TPG Growth and Anthos Capital, where she focused on growth equity investments in the technology and retail sectors. During her time as an investor, she worked closely with several consumer management teams to target areas for operational improvement, assess acquisition opportunities, and implement growth initiatives.
Wen received her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She also holds a dual BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Economics and Management Science where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Wen, husband Robbie and son Aidan currently live in southern California with their rescue dogs, Poke and Mochi
Spencer Williams is a fifth-generation Montanan who grew up working on his family’s ranch. This experience led him to embrace environmental stewardship and a love of animals. In 1996 when Williams returned to Montana from college, he acquired a small pet product company now known as West Paw. Under Williams’ leadership, this Montana-based business has become a world-class manufacturer of innovative and eco-friendly pet products.
A socially conscious entrepreneur, Williams realized it was possible to make decisions that benefit people and their pets, the environment, and the bottom line: “As a company, we seek to serve our community by ensuring a healthy planet, productive work, and strong communities in the future.”
For 25 years, Williams has remained committed to creating jobs for Montanans by continuing to invest in the people and manufacturing. In 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the US, Williams and the team at West Paw retooled the facility to keep their workers employed by making masks for healthcare providers and developed special programs for customers to keep their shelves stocked. For his role in steering the company through the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, Williams was awarded The Montana Ambassador Placemaker of the Year in 2021.
To solidify his commitment to using business as a force for good, West Paw became the first pet product manufacturer to become a certified B Corp, having met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. In 2015, West Paw became Montana’s first Benefit Corporation. Additionally, West Paw is a founding member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition and received international recognition from the Global Pet Forum for the company’s work using business for positive social and environmental change.
West Paw does more than just design and manufacture eco-friendly dog products, it makes a difference in pet lives, the community and the world. Their goal is to use business as a force for good to help future generations enjoy a healthy planet, productive work, and strong communities. And with Williams as CEO and owner, West Pas has been doing just that since 1996. In 2022, Williams turned his focus to strategic partnerships with customers whose mission, vision and values align with our own. His refinement of our core values at the beginning of the year set the course for growing for good.