Before PFI, petfood manufacturers used the services of AFMA. - Tim Phillips

Petfood Industry magazine got its start thanks to bad weather. Bill Coleman, editor of this magazine from 1963 through 1982, wanted to get out of the icy rain, so he stopped at a hotel. That's where he just happened to meet Gil Gruber at a Toastmasters meeting. It was October 1958.

Turns out Gruber was the executive secretary of a trade group called the Eastern Pet Food Canners Association. So Coleman invited him to the hotel bar for an after-dinner drink, which turned into several. By the end of the evening the two men were convinced that a trade publication for the petfood manufacturing industry could become a reality.

The cold light of day

The next day Coleman went to Gruber's home to check out Gruber's newsletter for the petfood industry. And, as Coleman put it, "To our excited appraisal, the concept seemed as viable in the cold light of day as it had seemed over highballs the night before."

Coleman took the idea to the management of his employer, Garden State Publishing. They suggested he get the opinions of several petfood executives in Chicago. Alas, he did not find enthusiasm. "There were several presidents of major petfood companies," says Coleman, "who thought the industry was best left unheralded, rather than chronicled in print."

The good news is that Henry Bucklin, president of the newly formed Pet Food Institute (PFI), gave Coleman strong backing and this publication was born. Gil Gruber, our first editor, retired after four years and Coleman took over. Since then Charles Olentine, PhD, and Virginia Lazar edited this magazine. I started in late 1988.

Also in the late 1950s, PFI was coming into its own. Before PFI, petfood manufacturers used the services of the American Feed Manufacturers Association (AFMA). This made sense because petfoods were (and still are) deemed feeds for regulatory purposes.

Breaking away

In 1955, the petfood manufacturers, still using the services of AFMA, held a separate convention in Chicago. By 1957 this group decided it was time to be independent of AFMA. On February 7, 1958, the Secretary of State of Illinois issued a certificate of incorporation and PFI was legally born, according to Joe Getlin, an early chairmen of PFI.

In April 1958 PFI held an organizational meeting and elected a board of directors which approved the appointment of Byrne Marcellus Co. to serve as PFI's professional manager with Henry Bucklin as president.

Join the party!

In 1974 the PFI intensified its government relations program as a way to influence legislation. This prompted a move from Chicago to Washington, DC. At that time Duane Ekedahl, MBA, was named executive director of the Institutea position he still holds.

There is a lot more to tell, but space doesn't permit, so I'll end by saying Happy Birthday PFI! To learn more about PFI's 50th annual industry meeting, go to www.petfoodinstitute.org.

100 years of the petfood industry

1908 - The F. H. Bennett Biscuit Co. creates the precursor of Milk-Bone. (James Spratt's Dog Cakes started the commercial dog food industry in 1860.)

1920 - Prohibition against sale of alcohol in US starts.

1922 - The Chappel brothers introduce Ken-L Ration, the first canned dog food (horse meat) in the US.

1931 - National Biscuit Co. (now Nabisco) acquires the F. H. Bennett Biscuit Co.

1934 - Mars Confections acquires its first petfood business in the UK.

1941 - Petfood sales hit US$50 million.

1942 - Quaker Oats enters the petfood business through the purchase of Ken-L Ration (Chappel Brothers Packing Co.).

1946 - Paul Iams founds the Iams Co.

1957 - Purina introduces the first extruded dog food, Dog Chow, for grocery distribution.

1958 - The Pet Food Institute forms. Friskies (Carnation) introduces the first dry cat food.

1959 - Petfood Industry magazine begins publication.

1963 - US president John F. Kennedy assassinated.

1968 - Dr. Mark Morris Jr., creates the Science Diet line of petfoods for healthy pets.

1974 - US president Nixon resigns after Watergate scandal.

1975 - Petfood sales surpass US$2 billion.

1982 - Clay Mathile purchases Iams. Nestlé launches Fancy Feast gourmet canned cat food in 3-ounce cans.

1985 - Nestlé purchases Carnation (Friskies).

1986 - PetSmart founders Jim and Janice Dougherty secure a venture capital loan.

1993 - Palastinian leader Arafat and Israeli prime minister Rabin sign peace agreement in the US.

1995 - Nestlé acquires Alpo. Football legend OJ Simpson acquitted of murder.

2001 - Ralston Purina Co. merges with Nestlé subsidiary. Terrorists attack the World Trade Center in New York City.

2006 - Del Monte Foods buys Meow Mix and Milk-Bone.

2007 - Several petfood companies recall many brands of petfoods. Mars moves to acquire Nutro Products.