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For Interzoo 2012, the organizer of the event -- arguably the largest pet trade show in the world -- invited me to give a presentation during the show's international press conference. While honored and flattered by the invitation, I was also rather nervous initially, because of the requested topic: innovation in petfood and treats.
The reason for my consternation? Though I've long believed that new product development is the lifeblood of our industry and the driver behind its continued growth, even (perhaps especially) during these recent economic difficulties, I've also worried that the industry has not been producing much in the way of truly innovative products for some time now. I have come away from most pet trade shows over the past two years -- including Interzoo 2010 -- feeling somewhat underwhelmed by the number and type of new products launched by petfood companies.
But in starting to prepare my presentation for Interzoo, I realized that I need to look at innovation in petfood from a different angle. While much of the industry's high growth these days is in the so-called developing markets -- regions like Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia where more people are starting to feed their pets commercial petfoods -- in many other markets, petfood is a mature industry. It stands to reason companies need to approach innovation in entirely new ways.
For example, one trend in our industry has been products, especially dry petfoods, with higher levels of meat and particularly fresh meat, based on consumer demands and beliefs that dogs and cats should eat more meat. But until recently, existing technology for extruding petfoods allowed only so much meat to be included.