How to ace Petfood Forum’s educational sessions

With a little bit of planning, you can make the most of the general sessions and specialized tracks offered throughout Petfood Forum 2018.

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Petfood Forum 101 is a first-time show attendee and exhibitor program for Petfood Forum USA. | Tess Stukenberg
Petfood Forum 101 is a first-time show attendee and exhibitor program for Petfood Forum USA. | Tess Stukenberg

One of Petfood Forum’s primary draws involve its educational sessions, held throughout the tradeshow and conference each year. With multiple “tracks” available, the ability to attend sessions from more than one track, and the trends and data-focused general sessions and panel discussions, any Forum attendee is going to have a wealth of educational options at their fingertips.

Opening keynote and general sessions

Petfood Forum 2018 has an opening keynote that everyone is particularly excited about: Jack Hanna, host of the Emmy-Award-winning television series “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild,” will kick off the conference portion of Forum with some of his animal friends on April 24. He will share his special window into the animal world and will detail his globetrotting experiences to his audience. The presentation will also include a mix of video clips and inspirational stories that deal with conservation, travel and wildlife issues. While Petfood Forum’s keynote is always a great way to kick off your tradeshow experience, this year’s is definitely a talk you won’t want to miss! (Did I mention the animals? If cheetahs, sloths, penguins or kangaroos are your thing, you are really going to want to lock this keynote into your schedule!)

Following the keynote, Forum’s first general session will take place: “My pets eat better than me: pet specialty data and trends show why,” presented by Client Service Manager for GfK Natasha Davis, will highlight humanistic trends driving pet food premiumization in the US pet specialty channel and how some now, and not-so-new, categories are transforming as a result. On April 25, the opening general session, “Achieving trust and transparency with today’s pet parents,” will highlight exclusive research conducted by Packaged Facts and will be presented by the market research company’s Publisher and Research Director David Sprinkle. Finally, the closing keynote on April 25 will be headlined by Brian Hare, a scientist, New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of, who will discuss his recent research on canine cognition and his work determining dogs’ individual cognitive styles which in turn influence dogs’ eating behaviors.

Such trends-focused sessions are hallmarks of Petfood Forum and help set the tone for both the overall show and the educational tracks and panel discussions that take place later each day. If you’re looking to get a solid finger on the pulse of pet food industry trends, as well as scope out some specifics to focus on during the show, these sessions are highly recommended. And, as they take place in the morning (barring, of course, the closing keynote), they are more easily attended by those who may have a busy booth to focus on later in the day, lunch meetings to go to, or just the overall tradeshow hustle and bustle that may make it easy to forget a session you meant to check out.

Educational tracks: nutrition, ingredients, marketing, and processing and safety

Petfood Forum 2018 boasts four different educational tracks taking place via five concurrent sessions each on the afternoon of April 24. If you’re looking for specific knowledge in a single category (nutrition, ingredients, marketing, or processing and safety), you’re in luck! You can simply choose a room and settle in for an afternoon of education. The marketing track, for example, takes place in room 2505 at the Kansas City Convention Center, and offers the following sessions:

  • Why is pet food surrounded by secrecy? The quest for transparency
  • Following today’s pet food shopping journey
  • Digesting your issues: containing a social media crisis
  • Beyond millennials: reaching the connected pet food consumer
  • The evolution and future of the grain-free ingredients market

But maybe only a couple of sessions in a given track sound interesting, or maybe you want to focus on two different topics: say, nutrition and ingredients. No problem; the sessions for each track fall into standardized time slots, so you can easily attend the 1:00 pm nutrition session, “Kibble diameter and its effect on canine palatability,” and then sit in on the 1:30 pm ingredient session, “Dried yeast: alternative protein for dogs and cats.” Whatever your educational goal is at Forum, we have you covered!

Panel discussions: insect protein, market trends and a CEO roundtable

On April 25, Petfood Forum is providing the opportunity to get multiple insights on a given topic during the same session, with three different afternoon roundtables happening concurrently. Each roundtable has a primary topic and then subtopics under that umbrella. The insect protein roundtable, for example, has subtopics focusing on an R&D update on inspects for animal feed applications, nutritional comparisons of insects for pet food products, a US regulatory update on the recognition of insect protein ingredients, and a global perspective on insect production. With different speakers highlighting each topic, the opportunity for gaining a well-rounded education on the topic that interests you the most is significant.

Making the most of it

Whatever you want to hear about at Petfood Forum, odds are there’s a track or a session for you. From overall trends data to a focus on a specific emerging trend, you can find what you need and fit it into your busy convention schedule. Make sure to check the full schedule online ahead of time so you can hit the ground running on April 24. And once you’re at Forum, make use of the Guide available when you pick up your badge and the Petfood Forum 2018 app (already available on iTunes and Google Play; just search for Petfood Forum 2018 or visit, which gives you the ability to plan your day and set reminders so you don’t miss a session!

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