Why innovate?: Success in a diversifying pet food market

With pet food trends becoming more nuanced and plenty of options on the market, innovation will be key to success on the pet store shelf.

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Turgay Gundogdu, Dreamstime.com
Turgay Gundogdu, Dreamstime.com

Last October, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 2016 Kemin Symposium in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. During my attendance, I was able to listen to several other talks and discussions, and one in particular has remained at the forefront of my mind as I continue to see and report on the diversification of pet food trends. “Innovation – Breaking the Me Too Mold,” given by Dr. George Collings and Sarah Hubler of Collings Nutrition Solutions, focused on the reasons why innovation should play a key part in any business growth strategy.

What innovation can do for the pet food industry

The pet food industry is becoming more nuanced by the day. No longer is it enough to have “natural” or even “organic” formulations; consumers now very nearly take those labels for granted. They want to see formulas on the shelf that speak to their individual pet: limited ingredient diets, allergy or age or lifestyle formulations, raw or bio-appropriate or ancestral, weight control or kidney function or veterinary foods, or any of these in a multitude of combinations. With the specialty pet food market becoming saturated with options, how can a business possibly succeed?

One of the tasks in any business, according to Collings and Hubler, is to grow new markets, and that is where the greatest opportunities for innovation lie. Innovation can do many things for a company, both externally and internally. Externally, it can drive growth, protect brand relevancy, improve or expand products, and solve client needs — all key items a pet food company should be focusing on in an ever-changing industry. But equally important, it can empower employees and help a company learn from mistakes and develop knowledge, all vital components to a thriving company.

Innovation should be business as usual for any pet food company looking to make or increase their name in today’s market. The dedication to providing consumers with what they want, even if it means getting a bigger drawing board, will continue to play a significant role in fulfilling current trends and consistently bringing pet owners back to your product.

Briefly: Making innovation part of your corporate culture

  1. Remove idea-killing language.
  2. Increase freedom and decision-making.
    1. Flatten your organization (more side-by-side working, less of a hierarchy mentality).
    2. Hire based on values, not just skills (match your people to the corporate culture you’re trying to build).
    3. Share the big picture with everyone (make sure everyone knows what the goals are).
    4. Give parameters, then allow freedom.
    5. Discuss what’s working and what’s not.
  3. Celebrate failure.
    1. Failure is uncomfortable but meaningful; lean into it.
    2. Don’t settle for “good enough.”
    3. Admit failings.
    4. Celebrate failure in a public way (acknowledge work put in, lessons learned, information revealed during the process).
    5. Focus on the next steps.


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