... literally! The fur was flying at Petfood Forum 2012, especially on Tuesday, April 3, when two rescue groups, members of the Petfinder.com network, visited with more than a dozen dogs and puppies, plus a couple cats. That was in addition to several booths in the exhibit hall hosting dogs (and one amazingly calm cat). Many of the dogs were captured on video.

 

Though pets have appeared occasionally at Petfood Forum during the conference's 20 years, moving to a new facility last year (the Renaissance Schaumburg near Chicago's O'Hare airport) allowed for even more pets to be brought in and for longer periods. Trouw Nutrition started the pet parade at Petfood Forum 2011 with puppies in its booth; this year, Trouw again hosted puppies and sponsored the visit from the shelter pets.

 

Plus, the LaBudde Group brought Gracie, its office dog (she's also trained as a therapy dog), and Coating Excellence International's booth featured six dogs and that one mellow cat. All the pets were such a hit that we ended up asking ourselves, why on earth haven't we done this every year?

 

Facility rules aside, I think we tried to focus too much on the business aspect of Petfood Forum in the past. The business is important -- and business activity at the conference is robust -- but we have to remember the reason why we're all in this industry in the first place, right? (Find some ideas from Betsy Banks Saul, founder and president of Petfinder.com, on how your company can support pets.)

  

But focusing on business for a minute, this was a record year for Petfood Forum, with the largest exhibit floor ever (236 booths, up from 204 last year) and more than 1,250 attendees, up more than 10% from 2011. While most participants hailed from North America, about 20 other countries were represented. The numbers attest to the vibrancy of our industry.

 

Perhaps even more striking was the number of people and companies new to our industry. This was brought home at the "ask the experts" panel during Petfood Workshop on Thursday, April 5, which was supposed to be a forum for asking questions about new product development. Instead, many of the questions were about basic elements of petfood manufacturing -- processing, palatability, etc. -- posed by participants stating their relative newness to petfood and eagerness to learn about it. I believe that bodes well for our industry's continued growth and success.

 

Watch this site for further videos and news from Petfood Forum, as well as a call for papers this summer for next year's event.