The American Feed Industry Association’s (AFIA) Pet Food Conference on January 26 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, was one for the books, with 330 registrants, exceeding the 2015 conference, which had 250 registrants. 

The Pet Food Conference is designed to inform pet food representatives about the latest industry initiatives, and included speakers from government entities, private companies and universities, and discussed compelling topics including the future of trade, developments in meat and poultry safety, labeling claims and how to prepare for third-party certification.

“The final FSMA rule requires pet food manufacturers to consider different aspects than their feed and feed ingredient manufacturer counterparts,” said Leah Wilkinson, AFIA vice president of legislative, regulatory and state affairs. “While the industry is preparing to implement the final rule, we are also looking to future challenges and opportunities in the pet food market.”

Attendees heard from industry representatives Betsy Booren, Ph.D., North American Meat Institute; John Dillard, Olsson, Frank and Weeda; Maria R. C. de Godoy, Ph.D., University of Illinois; Daniel McChesney, Ph.D., U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Robert Prevendar, NSF International; and AFIA trade expert Gina Tumbarello on the issues of whole genome sequencing, labeling, sampling, certifications and trade.

“In 2015 the U.S. averaged $105 billion in pet care sales,” said Jared Koerten of Euromonitor International during his domestic and global trends in pet food presentation. “Dog food represents almost half of global sales, and together with cat food, both control 70 percent of the global pet care market.”

Research updates addressing allergens and pet obesity were also provided to the group.

Kelly Swanson, Ph.D., professor of animal and nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois, explained to the audience information pulled from a study conducted in 2014 showed “30% of pets were overweight and 28% were obese, which is more than 50% of the pet population.” Research is ongoing into methods to mitigate this obesity trend.

“As the record-breaking attendance alludes, the interest in this sector of AFIA’s membership continues to grow and this conference provides an excellent educational and networking forum,” said Wilkinson.