February 29, 2016

By Bob Vetere

What a start for the pet industry in 2016. First, the Pet Industry Leadership Conference kicked things off with a very successful program in Tucson in January. The energy at the conference was great and there was a feeling of optimism for the industry. This enthusiasm continued through the initial distributor shows for the year.

Global Pet Expo 2016

Now we come to Global Pet Expo. Recently named “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Trade Show Executive Magazine, Global Pet Expo broke records for its number of exhibitors and booths in mid-January and continued to grow. With over 3,400 booths on the floor this year, the 2016 show is over 230 percent larger than my first show in Atlanta in 2003! The industry has grown to over $60 billion, and the future still looks bright.

2016’s Global Pet Expo will have over 1,000 offerings in its New Product Showcase. Exhibitors continue to demonstrate the creative initiative that keeps the marketplace exciting and satisfying to a growing number of pet owners.

As early as three months before the show’s first day, all of the specialty areas—Aquatics, The Natural Pet, The Boutique and the International Pavilion—were full. Soon after that, the What’s New section filled. Buyers at Global will have the widest selection yet of pet products and foods.

Future Pet Owning Generations

It is easy to talk about the good news. As with any industry, there are always challenges to maintain momentum. We can thank everyone’s impressive efforts, coupled with a bit of good luck, for the strength we continue to demonstrate.

But we need to look at the big picture. Baby Boomers are getting older, as I can personally attest. Because they have been the industry’s largest spending segment, we need to ask ourselves at what point they get too old to be the same kind of pet owner they have been.

A couple of decades ago, 60 was a point for people to either get beyond owning a pet or at least slow down in how they took care of them. Boomers blew through that barrier. But now, as the oldest of that group hits 70 this year, will they start to slow down? If so, where is the backfill?

The new and upcoming group into the marketplace is millennials. Up until recently, they did not seem to be exhibiting the kind of attraction to pets that is needed to pick up shortfall from Boomers.

How do we address that as an industry? What are they looking for that is different? How do we make sure they are engaged and supporting the industry? What are their motivating factors?

Many companies are gearing advertising toward millennials. APPA is focusing our Pets Add Life (PAL) campaign on millennials with research-tested messaging on digital platforms to encourage responsible pet ownership among these up-and-comers.

Industry and Animal Welfare Collaboration

To me, the best part of the last few years is the positive response I have been getting from folks willing to work together for the greater good. Associations have made great strides ensuring that manufacturers, distributors, retailers, food companies, veterinarians, animal welfare, academia, breeders, groomers and others are working together to protect and grow pet ownership.

There has been a strong response to leaving behind personal and company specific hats to think on behalf of the whole industry. The Pet Care Trust has done this for years with Pets in the Classroom. PIJAC has long been tackling tough legislative issues. HABRI has gathered and funded research to spread the word that pets are good for human health and communities. Recently, the U.S. government recognized HABRI by linking to it as an expert source for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

The latest effort that has matured and is making a difference is the Pet Leadership Council. The Pet Leadership Council’s mission is to advocate for pets and those who support them by promoting responsible pet ownership and educating the public on efforts to improve the wellbeing of companion animals. In other words, exactly what this industry needs to stay strong and growing.

Enjoy Global Pet Expo and look for more great things happening in 2016!


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