The pet care industry has seen an enormous amount of change over the years. However, one thing that remains constant is the fact that being a leader is never easy. And it’s an undertaking made even more difficult when one takes into account the upheaval caused by a pandemic. That’s where the professionals listed in these pages come in.
With the inaugural Power 50 list, Pet Age is recognizing the people whose vital work has made a substantial impact on the pet market. The criteria were relatively simple: 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.
The Power 50 honorees are making important contributions to the pet care community, making to the well-being of companion animals and using their dogged drive and steadfast leadership to pursue uncharted territory in the pet care industry.
Born, raised and educated in France, Olivier was offered an 18-month internship with Royal Canin in 1989. The company had just acquired two small pet food manufacturers and was just building a local team. Olivier, a passionate pet lover, immediately fell in love with the United States and with the pet industry. He moved from analyst to CFO and in 2002 assumed the role of CEO of Royal Canin USA.
During that time, he worked closely with Ann Hudson, the Marketing VP, and together they launched the first breed specific diets in the US and after the recruitment of Greg Temperly, expanded Royal Canin into the veterinary channel. In 2010, Olivier become CEO of FURminator, the leading brand of de-shedding tools. There, with Aaron Witt as Sales VP, they expanded the brand internationally before selling the company to Spectrum Brands.
In 2014, with the support of Frontenac, an investment group from Chicago, Olivier started Whitebridge Pet Brands. Ann, Greg and Aaron joined, with other team members from Royal Canin and FURminator, to build a pet food company focusing on naturally and minimally processed treats and foods and dedicated to making pets happier and healthier though better nutrition. During the last seven years, Olivier and Frontenac identified and acquired five brands: Cloud Star, Tiki Pets, Dogswell, Cardinal Laboratories and Grizzly Pet. Olivier’s dream to build an expert team with a motto of Better Together is proof that passion and partnerships equal good business.
With over 40 years’ experience in the pet food industry Peter Atkins, CEO of SquarePet Nutrition and former co-founder and CEO of Natura Pet Products, has made many contributions to the shaping of the industry we know today. In 1992 Peter, along with John Rademakers, created Natura Pet Products and over the next 18 years they trailblazed industry firsts that shifted the paradigm of commercial pet nutrition with many first-of innovations that include the use of novel premium high-quality meats and oils, fresh fruits and vegetables, prebiotics, chondroitin/glucosamine and many others.
Peter’s foremost contribution to the industry was his development of EVO, the original high meat, low carbohydrate, grain free dog and cat foods. The EVO brand was the seed for what would become the billion dollar “Grain Free” category. Taking those same trailblazing instincts and nutritional philosophies, Peter has now joined together with his sons – Dr. Travis Atkins & Tyler Atkins – and launched SquarePet Nutrition in late 2019.
SquarePet has identified and created a new category within the pet food landscape to provide premium veterinarian-formulated and solutions-based nutritional diets that are directed to support many well-known conditions that face our pet population. Even despite the headwinds brought on by 2020, Peter has led SquarePet on a winning trajectory and SquarePet is represented within independent retail stores across the majority of North America, as well as internationally with tremendous and continued interest in its novel veterinary style nutrition.
A visit to any consumer reptile show will reveal exhibitors displaying products that feature the iconic Zoo Med logo. The brand was founded in 1977 by Gary Bagnall, who has worked in the pet industry for more than 50 years, starting at Russo’s Wonderful World of Pets in Newport Beach at age 11. At 16, Gary managed his first pet store and, at 19, he worked for a tropical fish importer in Los Angeles. That same year, he started a live reptile import/export business which became California Zoological Supply. Cal Zoo eventually led to manufacturing reptile products and Zoo Med Laboratories was born.
As founder and CEO of Zoo Med, Gary has more than 30 pet product patents to his name and manufactures over half of its 1,200 product lines for reptiles, tropical fish and companion animals at Zoo Med’s company headquarters in San Luis Obispo, California.
Gary has claimed that his greatest achievement was the invention of the first UVB lamp for reptiles, which was the “tipping point” on how hobbyists keep reptiles in captivity. He is the chairman of the board at USARK (United States Association of Reptile Keepers) and was awarded a lifetime achievement award from the American Cichlid Association. Zoo Med philanthropy includes supporting many conservation organizations and regularly donating to over 100 aquarium, reptile and avian societies.
PET FOOD EXPERTS
When Michael Baker took the helm as president and chief executive officer at Pet Food Experts 20 years ago, he vowed to care about more than just the bottom line. Now, after five successful acquisitions, a vastly expanded distribution network, and a freshly appointed senior leadership team, this fourth generation powerhouse has emerged as a masterful distributor strongly delivering on its aggressive growth plan.
But it’s more than Pet Food Experts’ exponential growth that has made headlines over the years; it’s Baker’s servant leadership style and innovative mindset that has turned his 600 employees into fans. And, judging by Baker’s 95 percent Glassdoor rating coupled with an unprecedented Net Promoter Score of 67, pet specialty stores across the U.S. agree. From comforting fireside chats throughout the pandemic to their ongoing partnership with the Pet Sustainability Coalition and Earth Animal on the “Return to Retail” Flex Forward pilot program, PFX is on a mission to foster a more sustainable pet ecosystem. So what’s on the horizon?
Later this month, Pet Food Experts is expected to unveil a refreshed look for the brand, including a new logo and messaging reflective of their people-first culture. Customers will also enjoy an elevated online ordering experience equipped with machine learning on the company’s new revolutionary platform and mobile app. In addition to the anticipated brand make-over, plans to double warehouse square footage, including increased freezer space, are currently underway.
ANIMAL SUPPLY COMPANY
Tim Batterson, president and chief executive officer, joined Animal Supply Company in 2014. Tim brings with him more than 30 years of experience in sales, marketing, IT, manufacturing, purchasing, logistics and distribution. Tim believes that placing a focus on “Back to Basics” when delivering high quality products is the best way to serve our independent pet retail partners.
Tim’s commitment to independent pet has also led ASC to become a founding sponsor of IndiePet, whose mission is to empower independent and neighborhood pet retailers to work together as peers for the wellbeing of pets and pet owners. ASC also became an icon member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition which is working towards a better future for pets, people and planet.
As the demand for premier quality pet food and supplies skyrockets, ASC is positioning itself to be the distributor of choice across the nation by expanding its footprint. ASC’s most recent expansion has taken its footprint into the Northeastern US, with an expanded facility in Monroe Township, New Jersey, which can support the entire Tri-State and New England areas. Earlier this year, ASC expanded its Atlanta, GA distribution center by adding a 2,000-square-foot, state of the art freezer, bringing ASC’s national frozen footprint to over 20,000 square feet.
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 18 facilities and employs approximately 1,000 teammates.
PET INDUSTRY JOINT ADVISORY COUNCIL
Mike Bober joined the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the legislative and regulatory voice of the responsible pet care community, in 2013 and became president and CEO in 2016. He guides the PIJAC team as they represent the experience and expertise of pet care professionals to lawmakers, evaluating over 1,500 bill introductions each year and engaging on hundreds that could have significant positive — or negative — impacts on pets, pet ownership and pet businesses.
In the chaotic early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, Bober spearheaded a successful coalition effort to convince government officials to exempt pet care businesses from closure mandates, ensuring that Americans could continue to care for their 85 million pets. He oversaw PIJAC’s work to support pet caretakers and retailers with health and business continuity resources, dispute pet-related misinformation in the media, and educate the public on the safety of patronizing pet retailers and on keeping pandemic pets.
Under Bober’s leadership, the PIJAC team has enhanced the pet care community’s visibility with lawmakers by establishing or expanding several popular events on Capitol Hill including Pet Night, therapy animal interactions, and an annual legislative fly-in. His ability to develop and maintain relationships is key to PIJAC’s current productive alliances with pet care and intergovernmental organizations around the world and its role as the liaison between the U.S. pet care community and governmental entities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), among others.
NATIONAL ANIMAL SUPPLEMENT COUNCIL
Bill Bookout is president, board chairman and a founding member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC). Bookout is recognized as a leading expert on regulatory issues surrounding animal health supplements.
NASC is a nonprofit trade association whose mission is to promote the health and wellbeing of companion animals and horses given animal health supplements by their owners, and to protect and enhance the animal health supplement industry.
NASC was formed by 18 founding member companies when the very foundation of the industry was in jeopardy as regulatory agencies began removing products from the marketplace that were determined to violate animal feed laws. The original members engaged with state and federal regulators to cooperatively define, develop and implement a self-regulatory solution that met the objectives for responsibly marketing supplements intended for non-human-food-chain animals.
Today, NASC is the leading voice for this industry, representing over 285 member companies with finished products and over 100 vetted suppliers providing materials and services to ensure quality throughout the supply chain. Bookout is quick to point out that NASC’s credibility and impact could not have been achieved without collaboration from federal and state regulatory agencies, partnerships with industry associations, and enduring support from veterinarians, retailers and pet owners.
Consumer spending on animal health supplements has grown from $800 million when NASC was founded in 2001 to $2.6 billion last year with positive growth projections continuing. The NASC’s successful advocacy, leadership actions, quality assurance and audit programs have helped to shape and secure the future of an industry that makes a difference in the lives of millions of animals daily.
PET FOOD INSTITUTE
Dana Brooks is the president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute (PFI), the national trade association whose members make the vast majority of pet food and treats sold in the United States, including global and regional brands, as well as co-manufacturers. Since joining PFI in 2018, Dana has helped the pet food industry navigate a range of challenges, further increased the association’s advocacy presence and raised its public profile.
Dana worked closely with member companies throughout the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s announcements regarding dog food and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and she served as the industry’s media voice, conducting dozens of interviews. She also brought her government relations expertise to PFI to increase the association’s presence on Capitol Hill, and PFI ultimately met with and introduced the pet food industry to more than 200 Congressional offices during her first full year on the job. Dana also helped PFI increase its activities and presence as a public resource for information on pet food, launching consumer-friendly infographics and videos on topics such as complete and balanced cat nutrition, pet food label regulations, and responsible feeding and treating practices. Ultimately, PFI invested in broad stakeholder outreach to help demonstrate the commitment pet food makers hold to safety and nutrition.
MAMMOTH PET PRODUCTS
Charles Byrne is owner of Mammoth Pet Products, which was launched in 1995 in the ski resort town of Mammoth Lakes, California. The brand has become an industry leader by showing that creativity can turn a classic rope toy into a variety of innovative designs that are favorites for countless dogs.
With more than 300 interactive SKUs under the Flossy Chews, TireBiter, Candy Wraps, Squeaky Rope and SnakeBiter product lines. Mammoth has a reputation as being an innovative manufacturer of premium dog toys. Thanks to Byrne’s leadership, rope toys have evolved from simple designs to more complicated designs using a wider variety of advanced raw materials and processes.
Mammoth’s Flossy Chews product line feature premium cotton-blend rope fibers that floss dogs’ teeth as they chew to help maintain good dental hygiene. The Flossy Chews EXTRA Fresh line uses beeswax and real floss material to floss dogs’ teeth while they chew.
The TireBiter is also a recognizable toy, which is designed and developed in the United States and made from an advanced natural rubber formula. Mammoth also makes a range of braided and tied rope-inspired toys, including several in imaginative shapes (snake and iguana), and with squeak and tennis ball components.
CENTRAL GARDEN & PET
Tim Cofer is the CEO of Central Garden & Pet, a $2.7 billion portfolio company on a mission to lead the future of the pet and garden industries. The company’s 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 a leading portfolio of more than 65 high-quality brands, including Pennington, Nylabone, Kaytee, Amdro and Aqueon, strong manufacturing and distribution capabilities and a passionate, entrepreneurial growth culture.
Since joining Central in October 2019, Tim has developed and activated a new company purpose to nurture happy and healthy homes as well a long-term strategy, the “Central to Home” strategy. This framework sets a bold ambition and is a compelling and contemporary roadmap for the organization’s next chapter of growth. Under Tim’s leadership, Central has delivered six consecutive quarters of record results and the company’s market cap has increased 80 percent. Earlier this year, Forbes named Central one of America’s Best Midsize Employers.
With over 30 years of experience in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, Tim is committed to leading businesses that drive sustainable, profitable growth and create consistent shareholder value. Prior to joining Central, he has served in key leadership positions and held general management roles, including chief growth officer of Mondelez International, president of Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa Mondelez International, president of Kraft Foods Europe, president of Kraft Pizza Company and resident of Oscar Mayer Foods.
Ron Coughlin has spearheaded Petco’s transformation from a traditional pet retailer into a category-defining health and wellness company improving the lives of pets, pet parents and their more than 27,000 Petco partners (employees).
By embracing purpose-driven performance – a hallmark of Ron’s leadership – Petco continues establishing itself as the health and wellness company for pets with initiatives rooted in the company’s Whole Health philosophy. This industry-leading framework focuses on improving pet well-being by helping all five interconnected dimensions of health (physical, mental, social, home and accessible health) strengthen and build on each other. Petco recently ended the sale of food and treats with artificial ingredients, stopped selling specific electronic shock collars in favor of positive training, and removed traditional rawhide products from its shelves.
A champion for doing the right thing, Ron has propelled 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 – this year, the company published its first sustainability report and committed to increasing its assortment of sustainable products to 50 percent by the end of 2025 – an industry first. Under Ron’s leadership, Petco has committed to improving racial equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging through enhanced tracking, training, employee resource groups and more.
Petco’s fully integrated pet care ecosystem is resonating with pet parents, as evidenced by 11 consecutive quarters of comp growth as of the second quarter of 2021. Petco continues to gain momentum with recurring revenue offerings, premium, exclusive and owned-brand merchandise, a rapidly expanding veterinary business and double-digit e-commerce growth.
MID AMERICA PET FOOD
Greg Cyr believes that the foundation of a solid company is having a great product. However, he says the real success of a company starts with a clear vision, mission and set of values. When Greg joined Mid America Pet Food (MAPF) in 2018, he immediately established the brand’s guiding principles to ensure that the pets they’re entrusted to feed live a healthy, vibrant life fueled with quality nutrition.
Greg believes the brand doesn’t come to life without the people. Headquartered in East Texas, the people making up the MAPF team have a strong work ethic and a “can-do” attitude. This has led MAPF to achieve best in class fill rates across its customer base, an accomplishment that Greg believes is only possible because of their team.
Leadership involves making decisions to move forward with some opportunities while also knowing when to delay certain opportunities until the timing is right. For example, growing MAPF’s own fleet of trucks was a decision Greg inherited and was skeptical about at first, but when he realized that the company needed to be able to control their logistics on inbound ingredients he realized the importance and moved forward with the project. This change has enabled MAPF to manufacture 24 hours per day, seven days a week, as needed, and with these capabilities MAPF will exceed production of over 125,000 tons of food in 2021. Prior to 2021, MAPF has had a 30 percent CAGR, which the company will exceed this year.
DR. BRUCE ELSEY
Dr. Bruce Elsey, a feline veterinarian for more than 40 years and a pioneer in his field, founded Precious Cat. in 1987 by packaging clumping clay litter in gallon milk containers in a garage next to his clinic and selling it to his clients. Out of that grew the solutions-based company, Dr. Elsey’s Cat Products, with a vision to help support pets and people in need.
In 1999, Dr. Elsey started testing Cat Attract, a feline behavior modification and training cat litter, at his All Cat Clinic and at shelters around the Denver metro area. Inappropriate elimination is the No. 1 behavioral reason cats are abused and surrendered to shelters. Dr. Elsey’s goal is to help keep cats in their homes and using the litter box. To date, over 11 million bags and boxes of Cat Attract have been sold and countless cat lives have been saved.
Through Dr. Elsey’s inspirational leadership, his staff puts their heart, soul and science into the brand’s products. It’s all about pets, not profit. Every problem calls for a solution, whether it’s bringing a fussy feline back to the box, keeping paws clean and free of dust, or fueling the ancestral dietary needs of the public’s beloved pets. Dr. Elsey’s is dedicated to creating products that solve the complex needs of pet owners.
Dr. Elsey sums it up best: “We’ve always put ourselves in the pet’s paws, always identifying what is best for the animal, not for publicity.”
NESTLE PURINA PETCARE
As chief marketing officer at Nestlé Purina PetCare U.S., Andrea Faccio leads the marketing strategy for the company’s broad portfolio of more than two dozen pet care brands, including Purina ONE, Purina Pro Plan, Fancy Feast and Tidy Cats. Driven by deep consumer insights and a passion for pets, Faccio and her team work to bridge Purina’s vast expertise in pet nutrition and behavior, which is built on a foundation of science, with the needs and wants of pet owners. Her leadership has led to the development of many successful campaigns and new product launches delivering strong growth for the company.
Prior to her current role, Faccio served as the 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 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 (KD) Decker Frueh has spent the past 23 years with KONG Company, growing it 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 both KD, 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, KD 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, KD 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, resulting in a dominant market position for the company.
Despite the many challenges posed by COVID-19, KONG Company has continued to grow and innovate in the marketplace through creative new product offerings and tried and true customer service. KD’s vision for the future and strategic insight continue to push KONG forward in the industry, maintain brand integrity and develop innovative products for the public’s cherished pets.
Born in South Dakota, KD 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.
From the first truckload of food delivered to the latest batch of pet food cooked in their pet nutrition plant in Brownwood, Texas, Canidae’s story is one to be proud of. Canidae was founded in 1996 by two pet owners, John Gordon and Scott Whipple, who believed they could make pet food better. Better nutrients. Better flavor. Better for our dogs and cats and better for pet parents.
Canidae started as an independent, family owned business and remains one today, with CEO Bret Furio leading the brand by working hard every day to ensure the original commitment to “better” is upheld. This commitment inspires everything they do, from the land they harvest and the farmers they work with, to the people they employ and the local pet food stores they partner with. All of Canidae’s products are vet-reviewed, high-quality and perfectly balanced for optimal health at an affordable price point with no fillers, artificial flavors or artificial preservatives.
Canidae is proud to partner with U.S. farmers and green technology companies to bring new, sustainable practices to pet food, including lowering pesticide use, reducing runoff and adopting regenerative farming practices.
NATURVET / GARMON CORP.
NaturVet/Garmon Corp. was founded by Scott Garmon with the goal of helping pets with health issues through solution-based supplements. Over the past 25 years, NaturVet/Garmon Corp. has pioneered the industry with innovative, first-to-market solutions which included joint supplements, calming aids, bladder support, tear stain, liver supplements and GrassSaver products. The company was also one of the first to introduce the extra palatable functional soft chews for dogs and cats, which quickly became the preferred delivery method among pet parents. NaturVet/Garmon Corp has become one of the most trusted brands in the industry, while successfully navigating through the various pet specialty omni-channels while also avoiding the mass retail channels.
NaturVet/Garmon Corp. believes strongly in the importance of educating pet specialty retailers about product features and benefits by providing retailers with an extensive array of training and support materials and training sessions. Additionally, as a founding board member of NASC, Garmon has helped to guide the pet supplement industry through regulatory challenges with the collective goal of addressing issues and implementing important change.
NaturVet/Garmon Corp. currently manufactures over 200 products in three production facilities based in Temecula, California, with the goal of developing products to ensure the superior quality of life that all pets deserve.
DR. BOB GOLDSTEIN
Bob Goldstein, VMD, well known as Dr. Bob, is a co-founder of Earth Animal and its 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 Program for Animals, winner of the Dog Writer’s Association Maxwell Medallion Award. Dr. Bob is the editor and co-author of the textbook, Integrating Complimentary Medicine into Veterinary Practice, published by Wiley Blackwell.
Back in the 1970s, after a personal healing crisis with the Goldstein’s own dog, Leigh, and experiences in their veterinary practice, Dr. Bob began to question the negative and ethical impact of using chronic medications and pesticides on dogs and cats. As a result, he and Susan embarked on a holistic mission, which led to Another Way (Protect & Cause No Harm) of caring for dogs and cats.
In the pet industry, Dr. Bob is credited with formulating over 100 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 Goldstein’s Natures Protection products are leaders in the industry as a safer, gentler way of protecting animals from ticks and fleas. Through his Healing Center for Animals practice, Dr. Bob has treated thousands of animals with cancer using nutrition as a modality. Many of his protocols act as the ingredient basis for Earth Animal’s natural and holistic products.
Heather Govea says she knew from a young age that she had a future in the pet food industry. While working as a veterinary technician, she was able to see the importance of pet nutrition and how it could dramatically improve a pet’s quality of life.
After college, Heather started her pet food career and for the next 20 years continued to grow as a thought leader in the industry in companies like Natural Balance, Nulo and CJ Foods, which merged with American Nutrition to form Alphia in 2020. During much of her career, Heather sat in brand leader roles wishing she had a more comprehensive solutions to the manufacturing problems she faced, a history that gives her a unique view from her customers’ eyes.
Alphia is reinventing co-manufacturing by being a strategic partner to brands and retailers. Last year, Alphia merged two leading super premium pet food co-manufacturers, along with LANI, a world-class ingredient milling solutions provider, and Veracity, a 3PL logistics company.
Combined, Alphia offers complete farm-to-bowl custom solutions, a first in the pet food industry. As Alphia’s chief commercial officer, Heather and her team have helped Alphia quickly become a leading custom manufacturer of super premium pet food in the United States. Despite the challenges of operating through the pandemic, Alphia realized unprecedented growth, manufacturing more than one billion pounds of dry, canned and baked pet food and treats in 2020.
SUSAN M. HAYS
ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN FEED CONTROL OFFICIALS
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an independent organization that has been serving state, federal and international feed regulators for more than 110 years.
Susan M. Hays has served as AAFCO executive director since 2018, but her involvement with the organization began more than 16 years ago. She first began volunteering as an industry advisor on AAFCO committees because of her interest in safeguarding the health of animals.
Under Hays’ direction, AAFCO is a member-based organization that collaborates on important issues related to feed regulation; develops fair and equitable guidelines, definitions and policies for the enforcement of feed laws; and promotes uniform standards for the industry to follow. AAFCO has created a large number of models providing guidance and best-management practices for state regulators and the animal feed industry, including Model Bill and Feed Regulations and Model Pet Food Regulations.
In August 2021, AAFCO granted the public free access to Chapter 6 of its annual Official Publication. The added availability of this resource provides transparency about ingredients in commercial animal feed and pet food, and guides manufacturers when producing products.
Mark Hirschberg was born into the pet industry following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who started making dog toys from leather scraps after immigrating to the United States from Germany.
In 1995, Mark left his family business to start out on his own by launching Multipet. At that time the pet toy landscape looked completely different from today. Toy selections were limited to hard rubber or vinyl. There was one fleece toy in a few retail stores, but besides that, the concept of plush dog toys was unheard of. Mark’s vision revolutionized the dog toy industry by introducing quality plush dog toys in unique and whimsical designs. He also brought to market toys that made realistic animal sounds when squeezed.
Multipet’s toys immediately resonated with pet parents, who quickly responded to the wide selection of toys that appealed to dogs of all sizes, ages and temperaments. The alternative to hard rubber now meant dogs could play with toys that were easy to pick up, toss and cuddle. The soft plush toys and their squeakers enticed dogs to become excited and engaged.
The legacy of plush dog toys continues decades later throughout all retail segments. Chances are that what is common to see today, pet stores with dedicated plush toy departments, would have never existed if it were not for the vision and creativity that Multipet and Mark brought to the pet industry’s toy segment.
When Landon Hobson was named CEO at Cosmos Corporation in December 2017, the company looked different than it does today. Back then, 100 employees worked out of two separate buildings in Wentzville, Missouri. Since then, its workforce has expanded to more than 250, and the company, which manufactures pet products under the TropiClean, Naturél Promise and Urine Off® brands, has seen 275 percent topline growth.
Cosmos in September 2020 moved into a new, state-of-the-art headquarters in Saint Peters, Missouri. This facility is three times the size of the company’s previous space, bringing office space, production, warehouse and shipping operations under one roof to provide added efficiencies, help ensure business alignment, and accommodate long-term growth. As a testament to its growth, St. Louis Small Business Monthly recently named Cosmos Corporation a Future 50 Company, recognizing the 50 fast-growing companies in the Greater St. Louis area.
Hobson attributes the company’s success to a healthy workplace culture guided by a clear mission and intentionally fostered daily through core values that each employee lives out. The result is a place where employees genuinely enjoy coming to work. If it’s exceptionally low 7 percent turnover rate wasn’t enough proof, earlier this year the St. Louis Post-Dispatch named Cosmos a Top Workplace based on feedback Cosmos employees shared in an independent third-party survey.
“Our culture enables us to succeed by ensuring we have business alignment and are working toward the same purpose,” Hobson said. “In turn, that commitment allows us to meaningfully differentiate ourselves from the competition by thoroughly understanding customer needs, providing innovative solutions and moving nimbly to provide speed to market – all of which drive sales when our products make it into a consumer’s shopping cart.”
Reed Howlett joined the WellPet team as CEO in March 2021, bringing over 25 years of relevant experience as an accomplished thought leader in consumer brands. He’s held several executive and leadership roles within the sector, most notably as the CEO of pet food company Nature’s Variety and the founder of 358 Brands.
WellPet is the largest North America based independent branded premium natural pet food company and is home to premium pet food brands Wellness, WHIMZEES, Old Mother Hubbard, Holistic Select, Eagle Pack and Sojos. WellPet has a singular focus on natural, scientifically-backed pet nutrition with tangible outcomes that pets will feel and pet parents will see.
Reed is spearheading WellPet’s leadership in the premium-focused, natural pet food category through a deeper focus on product innovation, including in the fresh and plant-based categories, and doubling down on quality and safety to provide nothing but the best pet food and treats for retail partners and pet parents. During a pivotal time for the company with a fast-growing population of pet-owning households, in the past year, WellPet has experienced 62 percent growth for its WHIMZEES brand of dog dental chews, 51 percent growth for toppers and mixers, and 38 percent growth for Wellness wet cat, the No. 1 natural wet cat brand on the market. As more pet parents experience how nutrition can be the foundation of a lifetime of wellbeing for pets, this growth is poised to continue.
Reed brings his passion to shaping WellPet as the most trusted premium pet consumables brand where pet parents know that every decision WellPet makes is in their pet’s best interest.
AMERICAN PET PRODUCTS ASSOCIATION
Steve King, CAE, has been president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA) since 2019. In his role, King collaborates with APPA members, its board, staff and other associations to further the interests of the pet care community. Under King’s leadership, he and his team report on industry spending figures and trends, as well as market data released in the biennial APPA National Pet Owners Survey and through presentations to diverse audiences such as Pet Fair Southeast Asia and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Previously, King served as president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) and was instrumental in spearheading the effort to combine the former APPMA Show and PIDA PETS Show to form Global Pet Expo. Through the support of APPA’s dedicated team, the event has grown into the industry’s premier event and a global powerhouse, attracting more than 1,000 exhibitors and 6,000 buyers from 107 countries.
The pet care community looks to APPA to provide insight into the $100 billion U.S. pet market, and APPA was instrumental in guiding it through the tremendous changes resulting from COVID-19. The organization regularly presented webinars to educate members on government stimulus programs; engaged economists to contextualize the global economic impact; and conducted a series of COVID-19 Pulse Studies, the only contemporaneous surveys of pet owners and their buying habits.
King serves as a board member for Pet Partners and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), and is also a past recipient of Pet Age’s ICON Award.
Christian Kjaer and Amanda Howland founded ElleVet Sciences in 2017, but they spent much of 2016 performing research and delving into the science before determining the unique formulation that has made their company such a success.
The company grew approximately 30 percent month over month for a couple of years. ElleVet dedicates itself to a research-first commitment. The founders vow to not launch products until they had proven the efficacy and safety in a clinical trial, which has been a key to success. Another key decision was to not only focus on clinical trials, but also to commit to research into all parts of the plant in order to better understand plant genetics.
ElleVet has changed the way veterinarians and pet owners think about CBD. The company has the honor to be performing original research and learning about the properties of CBD + CBDA that will shape the pet industry and launch specific products for different species and applications. The paper on ElleVet’s study out of Cornell with Dr. Joe Wakshlag is one of the most downloaded papers for Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine.
Kjaer, Howland and the rest of the team at ElleVet are committed to helping all animals, which inspired them to launch the ElleVet Project to provide free veterinary care to pets of the homeless.
CHUCK LATHAM ASSOCIATES
Chuck Latham was raised with a deep love and appreciation for animals from an early age. 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 shaped his every business venture.
In 1984, Chuck founded Chuck Latham Associates (CLA) to help pet manufacturers better navigate and sell to the U.S. pet specialty market. CLA currently serves the $110 billion pet industry with more than 1,000 associates specializing in sales, marketing, research, analytics, retail service, logistics and brand/ product development.
In 2013, Chuck leveraged his extensive industry expertise creating H&C Animal Health to bring only 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. Beginning with one product, ActivPhy Joint Health, today the company features more than 10 prominent brands, including the recent additions of Angels’ Eyes (acquired in 2020) and bSerene by Scientia Pet.
Guided by Chuck’s stewardship, H&C Animal Health has appeared annually on the Inc. 5000 list since 2019 as one of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies. This past April, Chuck was named chairman of the American Pet Products Association (APPA) board of directors.
Steve Marton is co-founder and partner in VisioCap, a boutique investment firm that exclusively focuses on providing capital and thought leadership to businesses in the pet and baby products sectors. Previously, Steve was senior operating advisor at Pegasus Capital Advisors, where he managed several portfolio companies, including Halo, Purely for Pets. Steve has spent over 25 years in general management, new product development and brand leadership in the consumer packaged goods and pet care industries.
Prior to joining Pegasus, Steve served as president and chief operating officer of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, one of the largest manufacturers of premium pet food to the pet specialty class of trade and veterinary profession, under the Science Diet and Prescription Diet brand names.
Founded in 2014 by Steve and David Cunningham, VisioCap invests both time and capital into its portfolio companies. VisioCap entered 2021 with investments in Bocce’s Bakery, Shed Defender, Wet Noses, Nature’s Logic and Worldwise, whose aggregate annual sales revenue was in excess of $150M, and recently exited investments in both Nature’s Logic (July 2021) and Worldwise (September 2021).
Steve is also very active through his board and advisory roles with several other well-respected, for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He currently serves on the board of advisors for the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, the board of directors for Ollie, board advisor for GoodPup.com, MPM Products and Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Products, and the board of trustees for the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Previously, Steve served for 12 years on the PetSmart Charities Board.
WORLD PET ASSOCIATION
As the president of World Pet Association (WPA), Vic Mason helms the oldest nonprofit association serving the professional pet community. He first joined the WPA board in 2010, previously serving as chairman.
Mason leverages his 40+ years of industry experience to ensure that WPA’s resources, renowned trade shows and advocacy efforts address the current needs of all pet professionals. Having operated as CEO and co-founder of Replenish Pet, a California-based pet food company; director of business development and key accounts at Veterinary Service Inc. (VSI); and owner of a pet retail store, Mason put his firsthand knowledge of pet business to work evolving WPA’s offerings to support members during the height of the coronavirus crisis, when in-person events (including SuperZoo, WPA’s flagship event) were postponed and business owners faced a variety of new challenges.
SuperZoo was held again in August 2021, providing over 11,000 pet professionals with long-awaited opportunities to conduct business face-to-face while paving the way for the return of live industry events. His strategic vision also helped broaden WPA’s focus, leading to the launch of WPA365, a first-of-its-kind online platform that delivers market data, training, supplier connections and other exclusive benefits to subscribers year round; as well as the Professional Grooming Credential (PGC) program, the world’s first standardized system for assessing and highlighting groomers’ foundational knowledge, dedication to safety and technical skills.
WPA plays an active role as an advocate for pets and pet ownership, and more than $6 million in proceeds from the organization’s events has been invested back into the industry through the WPA Good Works program to date.
STELLA & CHEWY’S
After several years in the natural and organic foods sector, Catherine McCarthy joined the pet industry in 2004 with the goal of partnering with natural pet brands. Her first experience was with Wellness/Old Mother Hubbard, a pioneer of natural pet food and treats.
Over the last 17 years, McCarthy has led global innovation efforts at such high-growth, multi-national companies as WellPet and The Honest Kitchen, where she helped grow revenue 10 times, drove multi-year new product roadmaps and created over 300 new products. Throughout this time, the pet industry emerged as one of the foremost areas of growth, opportunity and investment. With an eye to the future of feeding, McCarthy now serves as vice president of innovation at Stella & Chewy’s. As one of the fastest growing, premium pet food brands, Stella & Chewy’s is leading the way in innovation and new market segments, including driving the raw pet food category and helping to establish freeze-dried.
In addition to Stella & Chewy’s values of nutrition, palatability, safety and convenience, McCarthy believes lifestyle behaviors including clean-eating, food variety and embracing pets as family members will continue to shrink the distance between human and pet trends. With her passion for product development and knowledge of the natural foods consumer, McCarthy’s goal is to create healthy, nourishing choices that inspire joy and confidence throughout the awesome journey of pet parenthood.
As chief executive officer, Blaine McPeak has led Champion Petfoods to advance its global market share position in premium pet foods. With his leadership team, Champion is unlocking the full potential of Biologically Appropriate foods, which are the cornerstone of ORIJEN and ACANA, and is building upon the company’s best-in-class brands, industry-leading foods, and state-of-the-art kitchens.
Champion’s vision, to be the global leader in advancing premium food for pets, is brought to life through a compelling new business strategy including: 1) building out local teams in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific, 2) prioritizing business development in 10 of the top global pet food markets, 3) step changing the marketing of ACANA and ORIJEN to build consumer awareness, 4) launching the strongest innovation pipeline in company history, and 5) developing the global customer base to grow household penetration.
At the heart of this compelling vision and business strategy lies a refined purpose and value set that has empowered employees to have a stake in what the company stands for, resulting in the company earning pet lover trust every day so pets thrive for a lifetime. Blaine’s efforts since joining Champion have led to a highly engaged culture and a core belief that the pet brand can make a lasting impact on the industry.
DR. BOB MENARDI
Dr. Bob Menardi, DVM, joined Canopy Growth as director of veterinary technical and educational services in 2019. In his role, Dr. Menardi serves as a key member of the core animal health team involved in the formulation and commercialization of Canopy Growth pet CBD products, including the Martha Stewart CBD for Pets line and the SurityPro product portfolio.
By offering his expertise on the veterinary profession throughout the product development process, he leaves an immeasurable impact on the Canopy Growth products that have revolutionized the pet CBD wellness industry. In addition, Dr. Menardi helps inform Canopy Growth’s industry-leading research projects and educates key veterinary opinion leaders on the role CBD can play in pets’ lives. He also creates continuing education courses for veterinarians, helps organize workshops and develops training materials for internal and external stakeholders, all ultimately in service of advancing functional CBD wellness in pets.
Dr. Menardi earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Colorado State University in 1990. He also holds a degree in Zoology. When he is not working, he spends his time with his wife and three children. He enjoys being outdoors whenever possible, especially hiking, walking and trying to keep up with his kids at their sports of choice.
Scott Morris, Freshpet’s co-founder and president, introduced pet parents to fresh, refrigerated pet food in 2006 and continues to help drive the growing consumer demand for the company. Since developing the fresh food category, Freshpet now sells in more than 27,000 Freshpet refrigerators across the United States, Canada, and Europe, and sales exceeding $400 million and growing at over 30 percent. Scott says he is proudest of building an enduring company based on core principles and values he learned during his 25-year career in consumer packaged goods (CPG).
Scott brings an entrepreneurial spirit from his previous and current ventures. In addition to being involved in all aspects of the company, he continues to deliver innovation as seen in Freshpet’s recent launch of its Spring & Sprout product – the first fresh, refrigerated plant-based dog food. He has also long championed the brand’s commitment to pet welfare and the well-being of the planet, donating over 12MM meals and driving Freshpet to be landfill-free and carbon neutral for its direct operations.
What drives Scott is creating great products and doing good in the world – an outlook that serves Freshpet well. Freshpet’s strategic success is represented by the millions of consumers it serves and in part by the company’s share price, which has grown more than 1,000 percent since listing on NASDAQ. In addition to co-founding Freshpet, Scott is a CPG advisor, investor and co-founder of Hive Brands.
Charlie Nelson is president of NutriSource Pet Foods, which was founded on strong relationships with the independent pet channel. With Charlie at the helm, the company’s focus continues to be partnering with neighborhood pet stores and doing its best to ensure the long-term success of its approximately 6,000 brick-and-mortar partners across the United States and Canada. The company supports the channel by employing one of the largest sales forces, dedicated and focused on building relationships, training and providing unmatched support.
At its core, NutriSource is driven by a mission to give back. From providing critical funds for local schools and community programs, supporting pet shelters and pet rescues or sponsoring a hospital facility dog program, NutriSource challenges itself every day to answer one of Charlie’s biggest questions: “Why are we here if we aren’t trying to make a difference?”
Today, NutriSource offers more than 110 different dog and cat food products across its four lines of NutriSource, NutriSource PureVita, NutriSource Choice and NutriSource Element Series. Product offerings include kibble, cans and treats.
NutriSource’s product innovation focuses on providing solutions and options that are important to the overall health and well-being of the company animal. Recently, the brand launched its Element Series line, which features high animal protein diets. The brand’s new PureVita stews in a TetraPak format provide a sustainability component to its packaging.
FROMM FAMILY FOODS
As president of one of the most respected brands in the pet industry, Tom Nieman is proud to be the fourth-generation of Fromm Family Foods and continue the tradition of family ownership and industry innovation with his children and wife Kathy. Born and raised in Mequon, Wisconsin, Tom spent his childhood working on family farms and at the Fromm factory before earning a chemical engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin and starting his career as a process development engineer at 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Upon his return to the Fromm business in 1984, Tom redirected the company to focus on feline and canine nutrition, launching the Gold and Four-Star Nutritionals line of products and carrying on the traditions started generations before. From its start, Fromm Family Foods has maintained a history of quiet innovation including the creation of both canine and feline distemper vaccines at Fromm Laboratories and pioneering the process in which meats and grains are combined to create the dry kibble widely used today.
Fromm remains steadfastly dedicated to the independent pet segment and proudly forward-thinking when it comes to sourcing and meticulous manufacturing, safety and quality practices. Over the past decade the brand has continued to thrive and expand its wet food business with the opening of a canning facility in Wisconsin as well as the expansion of treat offerings with the new-to-market Fromm Crunchy Os.
As senior vice president of U.S. Petcare at Zoetis since January 2020, Laura Olsen leads the largest business unit at the leading global animal health company. Laura’s passion for animal health and customer care motivates and inspires her to lead the U.S. team to drive innovative growth and advanced care for pets.
Zoetis is committed to innovating to address unmet veterinary needs, and during her first year at the helm, Laura oversaw the launch of Simparica Trio, the first triple-combination parasiticide monthly chewable for dogs in the United States. The Zoetis Petcare team is advancing growth in parasiticides, dermatology, and more while striving to enhance customer experience and boost pet owner engagement.
As a pet parent of two fur babies, Laura holds deeply personal insights into the needs of pet owners, the key role veterinarians and veterinary healthcare teams play in pet health and the importance of fostering a strong human-animal bond. Laura is also a board member of both the Diversify Veterinary Medicine Coalition (DVMC), working to address issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in veterinary medicine, and Pumpkin Pet Insurance, bringing awareness to monthly preventive care plans for pet owners.
Having taken the reins of U.S. Petcare at Zoetis shortly before the onset of the pandemic, Laura’s creative, forward-thinking leadership style has enabled her to support veterinary customers as they adapt to new ways of providing healthcare and to empower her team as they continue innovating to advance animal health.
PHILLIPS PET FOOD & SUPPLIES
Phillips Pet Food & Supplies, the nationwide distributor of pet food and supplies, is headed by Blaine Phillips, who was named CEO of the company earlier this year. He was appointed chairman in November 2020 and was previously CEO of Phillips from 1981 to 2016. During his prior tenure as CEO, he built the business from a small family feed store into the largest national distributor of pet food and supplies.
Phillips Pet Food & Supplies started as a single feed store in 1938 and currently has 11 distribution centers with five cross-dock facilities located across the United States. The company has more than 250 brand partners, more than 14,000 retail customers and employs approximately 1,200 employees.
From 1995, Blaine and his team successfully integrated over 15 competitive distributors and regions into the national powerhouse that it is today. A native of Pennsylvania, Blaine holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Fort Lauderdale Business College.
Said Blaine when he was named CEO: “When my grandfather opened a single store in 1938, his goal was to delight our customers and create a great place to work. It has been a pleasure to take part in the incredible transformation that has taken Phillips to where we are today, while keeping those same objectives at our core. The key to our success has always been the strength of our relationships with our customers, which is a testament to the talent, hard work, and dedication of Phillips employees at all levels.
PET INDUSTRY DISTRIBUTORS ASSOCIATION
Celeste Powers, CAE, became president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) in late 2018 with fresh eyes and big shoes to fill. Although she has been in non-profit association management for 30 years, more than 20 of them in CEO roles, Powers was a pet industry newcomer. She quickly established herself as a relationship builder and champion of the industry as a whole.
After attending her first Pet Industry Leadership Conference in January 2019, Powers recognized the value it offered to executives from all industry segments and spearheaded initiatives to build on its potential. Renamed The Pet Industry Leadership Summit, or “The Summit,” in 2020, the event featured a compressed schedule to provide maximum value in a streamlined timeframe. Under Powers’ leadership, sponsorship sales grew by 80 percent and attendance increased by nearly ten percent.
When PIDA’s long-time director of online education, Stephanie Kaplan, passed away suddenly less than a year into Powers’ tenure, Powers stepped in to ensure that Kaplan’s legacy, Pet Store Pro, stayed on track. Powers met personally with the program’s course development team to ease the transition and enable the on-time launch of its Zoonotic Disease Prevention chapter. Powers received PIJAC’s Pet Care Community Leader of the Year award for her efforts, which she dedicated to the team and to Kaplan’s memory.
“The key to my own success has been building strong relationships, which is the heart of PIDA’s role in the supply chain,” Powers says. “PIDA is a strong organization in an industry with lots of opportunities. It’s my goal as president to make sure we can always adapt to new landscapes, learn and grow.”
MUD BAY / INDIEPET
Helping Independent pet retailers grow and evolve has become a passion for Al Puntillo, chief merchandising officer for Mud Bay and IndiePet board president. Since 2013, Al has been part of the Mud Bay executive team working to continuously improve the country’s largest employee and family-owned pet retailer. Located in the Pacific Northwest, Mud Bay now operates 60 stores staffed with Muddies (staff members) who pride themselves on graciousness and nutritional expertise.
Mud Bay began in 1988 as a small feed store in Olympia, Washington. Over the years, it has developed a reputation for setting some of the highest product and partnership standards in the industry. If a product is available at Mud Bay, there’s a good chance that Al or one of his team has personally toured the manufacturing facility and stamped it with their approval. Al and his teams also are dedicated to making sure that Muddies can make confident recommendations and that customers have access to accurate and engaging tools that help them explore and learn in-store and online.
Al also is one of the founders of the Independent and Neighborhood Pet Retail Association (IndiePet, for short). This is the first organization in the pet industry to be fully focused on supporting independent pet retailers and the long-term health of the independent and neighborhood pet channels. Currently representing more than 1,500 retail store fronts and more than 50 manufacturing and industry partners, IndiePet held its first annual membership meeting at SuperZoo this year and is actively enrolling new members and developing a strategic plan for 2022 and beyond.
Rachael Ray is a television personality, businesswoman, celebrity cook, philanthropist and author. Best known as the host of the hit Emmy-award winning daytime talk show, Rachael Ray, and Food Network series, 30 Minute Meals, Rachael is also passionate about charitable endeavors that support humans and animals in need.
In 2010, inspired by a desire to give everyone the opportunity to provide their furry friends with optimal nutrition, she launched Rachael Ray Nutrish, a premium line of pet food and tasty treats available at the best price possible for a high level of quality. Proceeds from the sale of Nutrish fully fund the Rachael Ray Foundation, which helps animals in need of care, food, medical attention and a forever home.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachael donated $4 million through the Rachael Ray Foundation and her other nonprofit, Yum-o! Half of the funds went to support animals in need within the shelter system and simultaneously, Rachael Ray Nutrish pledged to donate 4 million meals through Greatergood.org and World Central Kitchen, to provide families with food and treats for their dogs and cats.
Rachael and Nutrish work together to develop all Nutrish recipes and recently launched Big Life, a new winning formula for big dogs that celebrates Rachael’s pitbull-wiemaraner, Bella Boo Blue, who she welcomed into her home last year.
PET SUPPLIES PLUS
Chris Rowland is the CEO of Pet Supplies Plus, which is America’s largest independent pet retailer. With over 560 locations in 36 states, the stores have a streamlined design making it easy to navigate a wide assortment of natural pet foods, goods and services.
Rowland’s career began in discount retail for 10 years in Canada, then worked his way up the corporate ladder at PetSmart from 1996 to 2011, starting as a store manager in Toronto then advancing to vice president of U.S. operations and ultimately president of PetSmart Canada.
Chris describes himself as a pet lover like everyone at Pet Supplies Plus, and he believes that the strength of the brand is in the consistent quality experience, outstanding value and incredible convenience to every neighbor who walks into a Pet Supplies Plus store.
Rowland made a calculated decision in February 2020, pre-pandemic, to increase its typical five weeks’ worth of inventory by 20 percent. When COVID-19 struck and online-competitors could not provide customers with pet inventory, Pet Supplies Plus retailers had the ability to supply their customers with toys and food within 24 hours. The pet retailer had a record-breaking growth year for 2020, adding free curbside pickup and same-day deliver, before closing out the year by acquiring 40 former PetValu stores and converting them to Pet Supplies Plus locations.
Pet Supplies Plus continues to experience tremendous growth with 73 new store commitments signed year-to-date for 2021. It has also rolled out an Autoship subscription program, enhanced its reward program and expanded its offerings to include prescription pet medications and food.
DR. CHRISTINE ROYAL
MERCK ANIMAL HEALTH
After beginning her career in a small animal practice, Dr. Christine Royal transitioned to industry before joining Merck Animal Health in 2014. In 2020, she was named associate vice president of U.S. companion animal and equine, where she currently leads the businesses and oversees the company’s efforts to promote stronger animal welfare practices and advocates for the importance of mental health and well-being among veterinary professionals. Dr. Royal collaborates with industry organizations, key opinion leaders and universities to leverage her experience as an animal health leader and offers support on topics that improve the lives of pets and the people who care for them, including established and emerging veterinary professionals. From releasing ground-breaking veterinary well-being studies with the AVMA, supporting scholarship programs, donating a significant supply of vaccines and medications to The Street Dog Coalition to care for pets of homeless individuals, and working with organizations that empower industry professionals, Dr. Royal makes a difference in the lives of veterinarians and pets alike.
During the pandemic, Merck Animal Health enhanced its approach to veterinary medicine. Over the past few years, Merck Animal Health partnered with more than 50 organizations to advance animal health with an impact in more than 15 countries, donated significant funds to support working animals dedicated to guidance, rehabilitation, search & rescue and wildlife protection, supported treatment of animals in shelters or economic hardship in six countries with 20 organizations, donated over $600,000 of vaccines and pharmaceuticals, awarded more than $200,000 in educational and non-clinical research grants, provided over $700,000 in COVID-19 donations and awarded more than $1 million in grants in 2020 to veterinary students.
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 8,000 and includes three vertically integrated business units: Simmons Prepared Foods, Simmons Animal Nutrition and Simmons Pet Food. 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.
Todd 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 approaching $1 billion in 2021, up from $190 million in 2010.
In early 2020, Simmons moved to strengthen its leadership team, bringing in Scott Salmon as president of the pet food division. Salmon’s expertise in building high-performing teams and responding to shifting consumer habits is proving invaluable in supporting growth for our customers.
The company’s growth trajectory continues to be strong with investments for its pet food business expected to surpass $500 million over a three-year period. This includes such infrastructure investments as a new $100 million operation in Iowa and expansions and production enhancements underway in Arkansas and Kansas.
Simmons was recently recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of America’s Best Mid-sized Employers, capturing the top ranking in the Food and Beverage category.
Ikdeep Singh assumed the role of regional president of Mars Pet Nutrition North America in January and quickly began implementing programming driven by data and purpose. He believes digital, data and analytics continue to transform how companies serve consumers with innovation – and it’s no different for pet parents. In less than a year, he’s led his team of talented associates to:
- Partner with a top hotel chain in North America to redefine pet-friendly travel while using innovative technology to deliver on consumer demands.
- Launch KARMA, a new brand of sustainability-focused dog food born out of consumer data and trends in the plant-based food space
- Introduce NOSEiD, a first-of-its-kind mobile app by IAMS that uses image-detection technology to help bring lost dogs home, which drives forward Mars Petcare’s ambition to help end pet homelessness
- Launch CESAR Fresh Chef, a breakthrough innovation of new refrigerated cut-and-serve rolls for dogs in response to demand for fresh dog food options.
- Introduce new additions to the leadership team to bring the company’s digital-focused mindset to life and enhance its supply chain
Prior to joining Mars Petcare, Ikdeep served as president with the L’Oréal Group, where he spent six years leading large and complex brand portfolios in North America, delivering revenue and profit growth at industry-leading rates by building high-performing teams with a diverse, inclusive work culture, while accelerating consumer-centric innovation and instilling industry-leading digital capabilities.
DR. STEVEN SOLOMON
U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
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 and 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.
COASTAL PET PRODUCTS
An iconic brand in the pet industry, Coastal Pet Products grew out of the basement of an Ohio pet shop beginning in 1968 and moved into its first facility in 1974. From 10 employees and 50 products, Coastal has grown to employ more than 400 associates send to market more than 7,500 SKUs from its 376,500-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility next to a man-made lake on a former cornfield.
Jim Stout, company co-founder and owner, used his engineering skills to introduce such innovations as the introduction of nylon webbing for leashes and collars along with inventions that included the Kanine curved buckle and plastic side-release buckle.
Central continues to remain a top player in the industry through partnerships with Wolfgang Man & Beast, the Salt Lake City-based company that specializes in stylized leashes and collars, and by way of acquisitions, including the 2015 addition of Bergen Pet Products and its line of travel products, feeders, food storage and toys.
Coastal has maintained its position as a category leader and resource for its customers thanks, in part to Jim’s daughter, Kim Stout, who is company president. She looks out over the retail landscape not with the eyes of an engineer, like her father, but from the perspective of salesperson and a marketer. As president, she directs Coastal’s retail strategy, where she ensures retailers can count on the company as a valuable partner while making consumers are aware of the Coastal brand name and what it represents.
J.K. Symancyk joined PetSmart as president and CEO in June 2018 and became a member of the company’s board of directors. J.K. is a consumer retail veteran with more than 25 years of industry experience managing complex retail operations, including his previous role as CEO of Academy Sports + Outdoors. J.K. currently serves as chairman of PetSmart Charities and is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders board of directors and the L-Brands board of directors.
Under his leadership, PetSmart has partnered with Door Dash to facilitate on-demand delivery of pet supplies and accessories across approximately 1,650 PetSmart locations nationwide and also with Afterpay, a buy-now, pay-later company, to give customers the chance to pay for purchases in interest-free installments. He was also pivotal in PetSmart launching The Pharmacy at PetSmart, a comprehensive online destination for the medical needs of cats, dogs and livestock.
Throughout his career, J.K. has demonstrated his ability to lead companies, driving profitable growth and improving the organizational performance of internal teams at large, multi-channel consumer businesses. Previously, J.K. served as president of Meijer, where he was responsible for leading all aspects of the business. He started his career at Walmart Stores, Inc., where he served in several leadership roles in both Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart, International.
Nate Thomas is a pet care industry professional with more than 25 years of technical experience holding executive-level positions in several pet food companies. In January 2011, Nate co-founded BSM Partners, the leading full-service pet care research, consulting and strategy-to-shelf product innovation firm.
Based in Bentonville, Arkansas, BSM Partners collaborates with hundreds of clients, ranging from the largest companies to individual entrepreneurs, to provide both technical and business solutions. Under Nate’s leadership, this growing firm currently employs 27 industry experts, making them the most credentialed and experienced independent team in the entire industry.
Members of the firm’s multidisciplinary technical services team, many of whom are regularly published in scientific journals, provide clients with formulation, technical review and advise on the development of thousands of new products and process technologies every year. BSM’s nutrition division, led by Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionists and board-certified companion animal nutritionists, undertake cutting edge research and functional product formulation. The firm’s Veterinarians perform advanced feeding and digestibility studies, conduct research, critical support, and develop educational programs. BSM’s experts in food safety, quality assurance and regulatory matters work with clients on factory audits and certifications, import/export, compliance and regulatory support for clients.
BSM’s business services professionals have significant experience in the areas of process development and engineering, factory design, equipment selection and project management support. The firm’s operations and business transformation team help companies reach their full potential through leadership development programs and by addressing supply chain and manufacturing needs. BSM’s experts also work with clients on marketing strategy, advertising, packaging and website design.
For the past seven years, the growth of some of the pet industry’s most respected and well-known brands has been led by Alice Tillet, CEO of Petmate. While she considers it a great honor to be named a pet industry “power player,” Alice would also just as quickly attribute Petmate’s success to the work of the talented and incredibly dedicated individuals throughout the company.
Having always prided herself on doing the things necessary to create quality products, Alice has made listening and working closely with Petmate’s retail partners priority No. 1 to ensure the brand is doing what’s best for pets and pet parents.
Under her leadership, Petmate has invested significantly in its manufacturing processes while reducing the company’s overall environmental impact for a clean and safer world. In addition, the relationships established over the years have been on full display with the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Concludes Alice on overcoming COVID-19: “I cannot credit our partners enough for all they did, and my team for moving seemingly insurmountable obstacles to keep the business moving forward. I consider myself fortunate to work with such a passionate group of people, each doing their part to reach a common goal.”
PARAGON SCHOOL OF PET GROOMING
Melissa Verplank has dedicated nearly 40 years to the training, development and betterment of the pet grooming industry. She is the founder and president of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, Melissa Verplank Enterprises, White Dog Enterprises, Learn2GroomDogs.com and Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa.
She was involved in the ground level of the voluntary certification testing programs, earning her Certified Master Groomer title in the mid-1980s. Melissa was a member of the traveling team for GroomTeam USA, representing the United States in World Team Competition in France in the early 1990s. Later, she was the GroomTeam USA team coordinator, served on the board of birectors and currently sits on its advisory board. She assisted in the start-up of the International Judges Association and is an approved grooming judge with the United Showmanagers Alliance. Verplank is a highly sought-after industry speaker, contest grooming judge, author and a two-time Cardinal Crystal Achievement winner.
Her recent industry accolades include:
- Barkleigh Honors Awards for website of the year 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017
- Speaker of the Year 2012
- Pet Age Icon Award for 2016
- Book of the Year (Notes from the Grooming Table) 2016
- Pet Age Women of Influence Award for 2019
- 2017 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award from Independent Book Publishers Association
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 pandemic hit the country, 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 GlobalPETS Forum for the company’s work using business for positive social and environmental change.