Last week was the largest Global Pet Expo ever -- at least according to the organizer, the American Pet Products Association. A few people I talked with on the show floor seemed skeptical of that claim; nevertheless, APPA president Bob Vetere said this year's show had the most booths, exhibitors, retailers and media.
The show was buzzing most of the time and had good traffic, even a decent amount on the last day, considering it was a Friday and sunny and warm in Orlando, Florida, where the show was held. APPA also helped generate buzz by releasing data on pet product spending in the US for 2011, showing a total of US$50.96 billion for the overall US pet products market, a 5.3% increase over 2010. US petfood spending grew 5.8% in 2011, APPA said, increasing to US$19.85 billion.
Interestingly, that growth rate was higher than what Euromonitor or Packaged Facts has shown; for 2012, APPA sees petfood growing "only" 3.1% (an increase in line with Euromonitor and Packaged Facts projections). Vetere attributes the slower growth to the fact that pet ownership in the US is flat (though Packaged Facts says it's starting to grow again) and that most people who would be able to afford premium and superpremium foods are already buying them (Packaged Facts concurs).
Considering it's the largest US pet trade show -- which most companies target for their new product introductions -- I thought this year's Global Pet Expo was fairly light on new petfood products, in terms of numbers and level of innovation. A few observations about the new petfood products:
- The trend toward functional and condition-specific treats is still going strong.
- A new trend has emerged: treats designed specifically to help get medication into the pet. Some of these, such as PillPusher Treats, also have functional ingredients.
- Pets' oral care continues to receive attention. For example, Mars Petcare is launching DentaFresh, an extension of its DentaStix treats for dogs.
- Mars is also continuing a focus on small dogs with Pedigree Trays (small serving size of wet food for smaller dogs) and Cesar Biscuits.
- Speaking of small dogs, Royal Canin featured its products for extra-small dogs, complete with dogs and puppies from the Florida Little Dog Rescue League on hand to show how well they were doing eating the foods. (At least six of the eight dogs had been adopted by the end of the show.)
Rather than a new product, Natura Pet launched a new website and program aimed at expanding the petfood company's transparency to consumers. Called "See Beyond the Bag," the program allows consumers to source ingredients in Natura products down to the general geographic area, see videos and other spotlights on Natura nutritionists, watch a video of petfoods being made at Natura's Fremont, Nebraska, USA, plant and read about the company's quality and safety certifications. (Actually, much of the manufacturing information is available on Natura's main website.)
Sara Diepenbrock, a Natura brand manager, described the new site as a "1.0 version" at this point; she said the company hopes to eventually allow consumers to drill down even deeper into more specific geographic areas for ingredient sourcing, as well as find extra content on all ingredients and their origins. The site might also offer a way to look up quality and safety test results for specific batches of products.
Watch www.petfoodindustry.com for videos of the new Natura site as well as other highlights of Global Pet Expo, coming soon.