Because there are more influencers in the pet food industry now than there were in the past, the industry itself must be more transparent in order to educate the public.

Henriette Bylling of Aller Petfood Group, who spoke Tuesday at Petfood Forum 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri, told the audience that the increased number of influencers, like freelance writers and bloggers, means those in the industry cannot control their messages as well as they used to.

“We had a very powerful position (10 years ago), a position we can only dream about now because we cannot control the information in the way we could back then. Those days are over,” Bylling said.

Today, there is a significantly higher number of stakeholders, and “the most interesting that have been added are the freelance writers and bloggers … and many of them are not from our trade. They are self-claimed pet experts,” she said.

Opportunity to influence

These days, when an internet search is at our fingertips and information is everywhere, those who work in the pet food industry have an opportunity to get their information out to consumers.

“We believe that we can go to Google and put in a question and we get an answer, that it should be right,” Bylling said. “Deep down, we understand that that’s not always the case … but we cannot see who has the correct source of information. Therefore, these people – the freelance writers and the bloggers – they become extremely powerful because they could actually say whatever they want about the concept of pet food in general, but also about our companies.”

Now “we have the same opportunities to influence,” she said.

Lack of transparency by the pet food industry leaves it open to the spread of false claims or misinformation.

“We have to not only educate the pet parents, but we also have to educate the influencers,” Bylling said. “Therefore, we need to gain a foothold. We need to be more transparent. The lack of transparency for us is leaving the influencers to their own devices.”

She also said more transparency allows consumers to learn more about the brands they care about and allows them to make more informed choices.

“The consumer has also changed their mentality. They wish to see behind the scenes. They don’t just want to see the façade of a brand. … They want to know who you are,” she said. “We need to stop having closed doors. We need to share our secrets. We need to share it with all the stakeholders because if we don’t give them the truth, we don’t make them able to make an informed choice, they will make up their own truth.”