Today, Petfood Forum, organized and put on by WATT Global Media and Petfood Industry, is known as the pet food industry’s global conference and exhibition focused on technologies utilized in the processing of pet foods and pet treats. Located in the heart of the Animal Health Corridor in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, the 2022 show celebrated Petfood Forum’s 30th anniversary with a special opening reception in downtown Kansas City, an opening keynote by Coach Ken Carter, and a distinct desire to get down to business after the pandemic-driven disruption of the last couple of years. Exhibitors included industry suppliers, co-packers and service providers, and attendees included professionals working in nutrition, ingredient and processing technologies, packaging, food science, R&D, product development, food safety, QA/QC, purchasing, import/export and regulatory compliance. The 2023 show will host a sold-out floor of 362 exhibitors filling 627 booths and an estimated audience of 3,000+ attendees.
The internationally known show actually has humble roots, in an Illinois suburb outside of Chicago.
“Petfood Forum started in 1993 on River Road in Des Plaines, Illinois, as a small, 100 people/10 table top event,” says Steve Akins, executive vice president, global petfood & events for WATT Global Media. The show eventually outgrew its Des Plaines venue and moved to the Hyatt in Rosemont, Illinois, right next to O’Hare International Airport. Still growing, the show then relocated to Schaumburg, Illinois, where it remained for several years. But by 2014, Petfood Forum had outgrown its space yet again. The 2015 show debuted at its new and current home, the Kansas City Convention Center.
“The move to Kansas City doubled our attendance in 2015 and allowed many in the industry to actually drive to the event and get there much more easily,” says Akins. “Petfood Forum has grown as the industry has grown (largely due to humanization of pets as family members) — consumer desire to spend more on their companion animals which are now treated as more of a family member, as well as the number of new food and treat products introduced every year, has continued to grow, answering consumer demand.”
Petfood Forum has become a prime opportunity for industry global networking and business, as well as for education on the latest research and trends in the pet food world.
“Networking and getting business done are why most people attend Petfood Forum, according to our attendee/exhibitor surveys,” says Akins. “Education and learning are second, and attendees are also able to view the industry’s only supplier exhibition for pet food and pet treat manufacturers.”
The show, of course, continues to grow as Petfood Forum expands to provide exhibitors and attendees with even more opportunities for networking and knowledge.
Among the notable and new elements in 2023 are several partnerships focusing on industry education and networking with the Pet Food Alliance, Pet Food Institute, AAFCO and Ingredient Buyers Mission. Additionally, the Future of Pet Food Pavilion continues to expand its offerings: This year, student research presentations will come from five different schools and will focus on various aspects of companion animal nutrition and pet food processing, and a special education session geared towards those new to their pet food careers will highlight how to succeed and grow in the industry.
Petfood Forum also includes the Petfood Essentials, which in 2023 will focus on “A deep dive into alternative pet foods.” The program is a one-day event that takes place the day before Petfood Forum begins, at the Kansas City Convention Center. This interactive, informal educational seminar will focus on the unique benefits and challenges of producing and marketing alternative pet foods in key areas like nutrition, processing, packaging, distribution, retailing, safety and testing. Throughout the day, participants will enjoy a fun, interactive group exercise, culminating in a competition.
Sessions at a glance include:
For full details on both events, the latest show-related news, and to register for Petfood Forum and/or Essentials, go to www.petfoodforumevents.com. Discounts on group registration are also available.
Lindsay Beaton is the editor of Petfood Industry magazine and the host of "Trending: Pet Food," a biweekly pet food industry podcast (www.petfoodindustry.com/trending-pet-food-podcast). You may contact her at www.wattglobalmedia.com/contact-us by selecting "Editorial Team - Petfood Industry" from the drop-down menu.
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