By Pet Age Staff//February 1, 2024//
By: Pet Age Staff//February 1, 2024//
Nate Thomas, CEO and co-founder of BSM Partners, has 30 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 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. Pet Age recently spoke with Thomas to learn more about his career in the pet industry.
What qualifications does BSM Partners bring to the pet industry?
We are the largest full-service consulting, research and product development firm in pet care. Our team advises hundreds of clients each year, from larger companies to entrepreneurs.
We have a multidisciplinary team of PhDs, board-certified veterinarians and nutritionists advising on the development of thousands of new pet care products each year. Our collective wide-ranging experiences across various animal science disciplines and our time working in the pet care industry, make us well qualified to tackle nearly any challenge. We provide businesses with operational and engineering support and formulate and test groundbreaking products. We also have significant research capabilities, which we’ve used over the last few years to learn more about nutrition and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), which remains a high-profile issue.
What is one aspect of the pet industry that you believe needs to change?
Pet parents are, more than ever, focused on what they are buying and feeding their pets. They want to be sure that the products and the underlying ingredients are right for their dog or cat, as well as safe. In short, as the pet industry has grown, so too have the demands of pet parents. Many companies recognize this. Those that don’t appreciate the enhanced scrutiny and changes in consumer behavior will be hampered.
There are quite a few brands out there with the cover value of “no animal testing”. The fact is all foods are tested; they’re either tested under controlled conditions and attended by veterinary professionals, or they’re tested directly by consumers’ pets with no feedback loop. This is clearly a problem and needs to change.
Widespread implementation of testing programs should be minimally focused on nutrient analysis, digestibility and established AAFCO feeding protocols. For an industry that routinely faces recalls and must weather questions about the safety of their products every couple of years, such changes would go a long way to boosting consumer trust and creating a stronger bond between pet parents, retailers and brands.
What inspired BSM Partners to launch its podcast in December 2022?
Our team possesses a wealth of knowledge about pets and the pet industry. We have a responsibility to share our accumulated knowledge with the public and our colleagues in the retailer, manufacturing, ingredient and veterinary science communities. We started our “Pet Industry Podcast” last year and have now produced two dozen episodes, with each episode running anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. It is not easy to produce engaging, thoughtful, long-form content and I am so proud of the incredible work that our team has put in to make the podcast a reality. We have received such incredible, positive feedback.
The podcast also allows us to explore topics in-depth. One those areas has been the origins and various facets of the DCM-grain-free debate. Our team has published multiple peer-reviewed papers that get to the heart of the science on this matter. We’ve interviewed renowned cardiologists, veterinarians and others with deep knowledge in relevant areas of study. I encourage everyone to download those episodes. We cover a lot of less weighty topics as well!
Do you think the pet industry should be a self-regulated industry?
As I look at our industry today, I believe we have a unique opportunity. Given the rapid growth we’ve all witnessed over the last decade or more, it is imperative that we take steps to properly position the pet space for even greater expansion. This includes how we regulate ourselves and adhere to a shared set of ideals. We owe it to our pets – who don’t have a voice of their own – to ensure that safety and nutrition is always at the forefront of our thinking and how we operate as an industry. Regardless of the oversight mechanisms, the most important thing is that they are effective and streamlined.
How would you describe your first job in the pet industry?
Stressful. When I was in High School, either ’89 or ’90, I worked for a telemarketing company in an inbound customer service/sales call center. My account was for the Carnation company, who had just launched a dog food brand to compete with Hill’s Science Diet and Iams. Available through subscription only, this product was delivered at a scheduled frequency via UPS. This particular brand didn’t really get off the ground as the DTC idea was clearly decades ahead of its time.
My job was to answer inbound calls to either provide customer service to existing consumers, as well as inbound sales to potential new customers. Humanization of pets was well underway at that time, and I learned a ton about pet care, food and how dedicated the pet consumer is. A very common complaint was that the UPS driver had hit the consumer’s pet and they wanted to cancel their subscription. To be honest, I didn’t particularly like the job, and I swore I’d never work in pet care again. That clearly didn’t hold true.