There weren’t a lot of surprises at Global Pet Expo 2020, but there were a few items of note, which we’ll get into in a minute. First, as anyone who has needed to travel lately has probably noticed, things are continuing to evolve with regards to the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation. One of the more serious things I think we’ll be seeing over the next several months was on display at Global, with more than 100 China-based exhibitors unable to attend due to travel restrictions. The show had signs up where the booths would have been explaining the situation, and I would be very surprised if it’s the only time I see such displays in my travels this year.

Hemp and CBD rule the New Products Showcase

As I predicted in last week’s column, the cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp trend is alive and well and was thoroughly represented at Global. In the New Products Showcase in particular, there were more than 20 new items on display representing all manner of delivery options, including sprays, balms, oils, treats and chews, tinctures, and even a nasal spray. One new item that managed to catch my eye was from TropiCBD, a Chicago, Illinois-based company that provides CBD products for pets and humans. The TropiCBD Toy comes in a kit along with the company’s full-spectrum hemp spread with peanut butter, and the idea is to insert the spread into either one or both ends of the toy, thus delivering the one-two punch of distraction via a chew toy and anxiety reduction via the hemp.

DCM discussion gets intense as retailers express frustrations

I attended (and live-tweeted) the Global Pet Expo Academy session entitled “Update on dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)” and given by Dana Brooks, president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute (PFI). While unfortunately there wasn’t much new to report, Brooks opened the floor to those in attendance in order to hear how the situation might be affecting them — and the opportunity was fully taken advantage of by the retailers in the room.

Beyond the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s undeniably poor handling of the information available to them regarding DCM’s potential connection to certain grain-free pet food formulations, retailers said that veterinarians are their biggest stumbling block. Over and over they said they’re seeing customers come in with food to return and no other explanation beyond, “My vet said grain-free will kill my pet.” It’s clear that more education is needed, and Brooks openly apologized for underestimating the reach of veterinarians and the need to ensure they’re fully informed. PFI, she said, will look over how to better disseminate information to veterinarians so they can better educate their clients.

“People are listening to bad information because that’s all there is,” said one retailer, and the general consensus is that they feel like they’ve been thrown to the wolves. Retailers said they’re doing a lot of legwork to try to meet their customers’ needs on the DCM issue, but without more support and information there’s only so much they can accomplish.

There is hope, if somewhat nebulous: according to Brooks, universities, third parties and pet food companies are all working on research that should start getting published this year. Unfortunately, in order to get published those doing the research can’t comment on it while it’s ongoing, which means everyone will have to remain patient for now — not an easy task when business is on the line.

Party time? Pet product producers capitalize on celebrations

One fun trend I wanted to highlight involves taking full advantage of pet humanization and pet owners’ desires to celebrate their furry friends. The New Products Showcase had several food items with a clear party bent, including Chews Happiness’ “doggie desserts” (superpremium artisanal dog treats with exotic ingredients and self-described “decadent” flavors), Whitebridge Pet Brands’ human-grade ice cream for pets, The Lazy Dog Cookie Co.’s ice cream mix, and Puppy Cake’s ice cream mix and cake mix.

Briefly: Did I get to see what I wanted this year?

  • Something truly innovative: Purina’s Pro Plan LiveClear is a cat food, with more than a decade of research behind it, designed to reduce the allergens in cat hair and dander.
  • A novel ingredient that makes me go, “what’s that about?”: Mosaic’s wild-caught octopus chips for dogs, with blueberries and pomegranate.
  • Advances in current trends: Plenty of new products with pumpkin or sweet potato as ingredients, as companies continue to work health/functional benefits into their formulations.

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