Petfood industry gathers for learning, networking at Petfood Forum and Workshop

Petfood Forum 2014, scheduled for March 31-April 2, and Petfood Workshop: Marketing to Today’s Consumers, April 2-3, together feature more than 30 educational sessions, with industry experts providing the latest research, information and insights on petfood manufacturing and marketing. As the one time the global petfood industry comes together each year, these conferences also offer petfood professionals a key opportunity to network with peers and leading industry suppliers.

Petfood Forum 2014, scheduled for March 31-April 2, and Petfood Workshop: Marketing to Today's Consumers, April 2-3, together feature more than 30 educational sessions, with industry experts providing the latest research, information and insights on petfood manufacturing and marketing. As the one time the global petfood industry comes together each year, these conferences also offer petfood professionals a key opportunity to network with peers and leading industry suppliers.

Both conferences take place at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel near Chicago, Illinois, USA. Starting with a popular opening reception on March 31, Petfood Forum's conference portion kicks off April 1 with an opening keynote by Steve Dale, a journalist and certified animal behavior consultant who reaches more US pet owners than any other pet journalist.

Petfood Forum also  features a general session with Maria Lange of GfK on the US petfood market; 21 concurrent sessions on petfood ingredients, nutrition, safety, processing, marketing, retail and more; plus three new discussion sessions on nutritional sustainability of petfoods, how distributor consolidation is affecting petfood retailing and an impending regulatory crisis for petfood ingredient standards and approval.

On April 2 during lunch, Petfood Forum concludes with a closing keynote by Wells Jones, CEO of America's VetDogs, an organization that provides guide and service dogs to US military veterans. A few veterans and their dogs will accompany Jones; on April 1, pets from Tree House Humane Society, on whose board Dale sits, will visit Petfood Forum.

Petfood Workshop: Marketing  to Today's Consumers is an in-depth, interactive seminar focusing on how to integrate your brand marketing, reach emerging pet owner groups, connect with consumers through social media, repackage your product and get it on store shelves and much more. For more information, visit

Petfood Forum schedule

For full descriptions of topics and speakers, please visit

Monday, March 31

12:00-7:30 pm Registration/check in

1:00-7:30 pm Exhibitor setup

5:30-7:30 pm Opening reception

Tuesday, April 1

7:00-8:00 am Breakfast

8:00-9:00 am Keynote : Steve Dale, pet journalist, relates what he has learned from pet owners, including their perceptions (and misperceptions) about petfood and pet nutrition.

Dale has a twice-weekly syndicated newspaper column through Tribune Media Services and is the host of two nationally syndicated radio shows, Steve Dale's Pet World and The Pet Minute. He is also a contributing editor with USA Weekend and the blog Petphoria, a columnist and special correspondent for Cat Fancy magazine and a blogger for the Chicago Tribune and other websites. He edited the newly released Decoding Your Dog and has authored several other books. On TV, he has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, National Geographic Explorer, Pets Part of the Family and Animal Planet.

9:00-9:40 am General session: Petfood market update and projections -Maria Lange, senior product manager of pet nutrition for GfK Retail and Technology USA, provides an overview of the US petfood market in the pet specialty channel, including how retail and volume sales are trending, which petfood categories are growing (and which are not), plus projections for future sales and growth.

Lange works with major pet industry clients, including leading manufacturers and retailers. She uses GfK's purchase database, covering about 12,000 pet stores (and 27,000 veterinary clinics) in the US, to detect trends and reveal emerging opportunities at the product, category and regional levels. Lange holds a degree in international culture and business studies from Universität Passau in Passau, Germany.

9:40 am Grand opening of Exhibit Hall and Networking Lounge

9:45-10:30 am Coffee break in Exhibit Hall

9:45-11:30 am Visit with pets from Tree House Humane Society

9:45-11:30 am Visit Exhibit Hall

11:30 am-1:00 pm Lunch

1:00-1:40 pm

Nutrition : Role of fiber and carbohydrates in obesity and diabetes mellitus -Jennifer A. Larsen, DVM, PhD, DACVN, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) at University of California-Davis, provides an overview and new research on how fiber and digestible carbohydrates in companion animal diets affect obesity and diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats.

Larsen earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine and bachelor and master degrees in animal science from UC-Davis. She also has attained diplomate status from the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and completed a doctorate in nutritional biology. Larsen does clinical nutritional consulting through the VMTH Nutrition Support Service.

Marketing/retail/packaging : Online marketing A to Z: websites, social media, video marketing and more -Andrea Fischetti, managing director of Chicago Pet Video, offers actionable take-home tips on all facets of online marketing, from website basics to search engine management to social media, email marketing, blogging and video marketing.

Fischetti's expertise lies in creating video marketing content, primarily in social marketing video, as well as overseeing production. She's worked on behalf of clients including Stella & Chewy's, Pet360 Media and HH Backer Associates. In addition, Fischetti teaches a monthly class for pet business owners in Chicago and serves as a contributing writer for World Pet Association Briefs and Pet Age magazine.

Safety/processing : FSMA preventive control rule for feed: The petfood industry's response -Jason Vickers, section head of product safety and regulatory affairs for Procter & Gamble Pet Care, outlines what the new preventive control rule for feed and petfood, issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), means for petfood producers.

Vickers also co-chairs the Pet Food Institute's FSMA working group and has helped orchestrate members' responses to FDA. He is based in Lewisburg, Ohio, USA.

1:45-2:25 pm

Nutrition : Effect of baking, extruding and raw ingredient selection on petfood sensory and odor properties -Kadri Koppel, PhD, research assistant professor with the Sensory Analysis Center at Kansas State University, presents results of a new study that helps address the scarce research to date on the sensory aspects of petfood and relations to aromatics and instrumental measurements.

Koppel has a doctorate with an emphasis on sensory analysis from Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. Before joining the Department of Human Research at Kansas State, she worked in the food industry for several years and has experience in professional development workshops in sensory analysis.

Marketing/retail/packaging : Using primary research to drive product innovation -Beth Vann, director of marketing, and Art Bucci, senior VP of flexible packaging, Coating Excellence International (CEI), illustrate the value and power of conducting primary research-voice of the customer, focus groups and usability studies-and using key findings to drive product innovation.

Vann has been with CEI for three years. Previously she worked internationally with IBM and has held marketing positions in the flexible packaging industry over the past 10 years. Vann has successfully conducted primary research in seven different countries.

Bucci has more than 20 years of experience in the packaging industry with printing, coating and converting for international markets in Europe, Asia/Pacific and South America. At CEI, he uses market data and trends to create innovation and drive revenue in the core markets of petfood, dry mix, sugar, condiments and cheese. Previously, he held positions with ITW and Pechiney Plastics Packaging.

Safety/processing : Innovations in petfood extrusion processes -Ed Beecher, manager of the process laboratory for Coperion Corp., outlines a number of new options available in the petfood extrusion process to improve efficiency, lower manufacturing costs and improve quality.

Beecher has been with Coperion Corp. since 1989 and earned a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Much of his experience is as a process engineer specializing in food processing.

2:25-3:00 pm Coffee break in Exhibit Hall

2:25-3:00 pm Visit with US military veterans and their dogs from America's VetDogs

3:00-3:40 pm

Nutrition : Nutrition and the working canine: New work, new nutrition -Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, DACVN, DACVSMR, associate professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, explains how increasing popularity in field trials, hunt trials, search and rescue and agility is changing the expectations and environments of working dogs and what that means for their nutritional requirements.

Wakshlag has lectured about working dog nutrition to many lay audiences as well as veterinary specialist groups. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and a founding member of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. Much of his research at Cornell has revolved around working dogs and has been published in several peer-reviewed journals.

Marketing/retail/packaging : US petfood spending patterns -David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, shares data and insights on retail petfood spending in the US, along with historical information, trends and projections for specific US product categories and highlights from Pet Food in the US, 10th edition, as well as other research and reports.

Sprinkle has contributed to several publications and writes the bimonthly Market Report column for Petfood Industry. He has presented at numerous conferences, and his reports for Packaged Facts include Premium Consumers and the New Economy and Americans in 2020. Sprinkle earned an MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans, where he also taught business communications.

Safety/processing : Effect of petfood formulation in thermal process validation studies against Salmonella -Mary L. Bandu, PhD, director of technical services, chemistry and research for Chestnut Labs, provides information on validation of thermal processes and discusses the effects of matrix components on thermal lethality of Salmonella spp., including experimental data to demonstrate the insulating effects of fat and the importance of moisture in reducing Salmonella during processing.

Bandu has a doctorate in bioanalytical chemistry from the University of Kansas and a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Houston. Currently, she oversees the research department at Chestnut Labs, where she designs, conducts and evaluates results from experimental protocols for laboratory and in-plant validation studies.

3:45-4:25 pm

Nutrition : Protein oxidation and petfood -Sara Cutler, PhD, scientist for Kemin Industries, presents results of a study to determine the extent of oxidation of protein sources in petfood raw materials and their effect on diet stability. The findings show that protein oxidation measures may be an additional tool to measure petfood quality.

Cutler works in the antioxidant R&D group for Kemin's petfood division and has been with the company since 2008. She holds a doctorate in animal science from Iowa State University, a master of science in veterinary microbiology (also from Iowa State) and a bachelor of science in animal science from South Dakota State University.

Marketing/retail/packaging : The Russian petfood market behind the statistics -Henriette Bylling, CEO/owner of Aller Petfood Group, focuses on this growing market, including impressive year-on-year statistics but also numerous bumps in the road. Bylling takes you behind the data and provides insights into the complexity of the Russian petfood market and its consumers.

Bylling is the fourth-generation owner of Aller Petfood Group. She holds a bachelor degree in business management and a master degree in marketing and communication. Aller, which also has facilities in Denmark, has been producing and selling private label petfood in Russia since 2004 and accounts for approximately 50% of the private label market there.

Safety/processing: Creating a paradigm shift in handling meat ingredients -Dave L. Flick, founder of Champ Pet Care, shares research on using fermentation means to stabilize uncooked meat slurries for at least 10 days at ambient temperatures. An important finding is the ability of this technology to minimize growth of pathogens in meat.

Flick has been a petfood operations expert for over 40 years. Previously he worked for Carnation and then Nestlé, where he established the petfood technical group. He also served as director of strategic planning with Superior Brands, established the manufacturing strategy for Freshpet, founded Champ Pet Care and developed strategies for US Pet's North American manufacturing.

4:30-5:10 pm

Nutrition : Plant-derived nutrients to fight aging in pets -Elizabeth Jeffery, PhD, professor emerita, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, presents her latest research on nutritional biomolecules in fruits and vegetables that have shown promise in fighting cancer and lowering the incidence of aging diseases in humans and are now being studied in pets.

Jeffery joined the University of Illinois in 1983 and is also professor emerita in the College of Medicine and in the Interdisciplinary Division of Nutritional Sciences. She performs research in diet and disease prevention and has served as program director for a multi-state research program on bioactive food components. She has over 100 peer-reviewed publications. Jeffery holds a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of London.

Marketing/retail/packaging : New product development and the Argentinean petfood market -Carlos Crosetti, DVM, PhD, technical director for Gepsa Grupo Pilar, offers insights on the Argentinean and Latin American petfood markets and how his company develops products for those markets, including how ingredient, equipment and distribution considerations relate to the petfood brand value proposition.

Crosetti earned an undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine at Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina, a graduate degree from Cornell University and a doctorate from the Department of Clinical Science at New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. He previously worked for Alimentos Pilar SA in Argentina, which was merged into a larger feed and petfood group called Grupo Pilar SA.

Safety/processing: Leveraging lean and just-in-time principles to save energy in petfood processing -Michael Overturf, CEO of ZF Energy Development, explains an emerging energy management approach that delivers new and significant cost-saving opportunities via the application of lean energy and just-in-time (JIT) principles.

Overturf holds multiple patents and patents pending in the energy field. Prior to starting ZF Energy Development, he spent 20 years managing the execution of hands-on business and productivity improvements including turnarounds, M&As, management training and JIT systems. Overturf has contributed to multiple journals and authored a publication on energy engineering.

5:10-6:30 pm Reception in Exhibit Hall

5:45-6:30 pm Poster reception in Exhibit Hall

Wednesday, April 2

7:00-8:00 am Breakfast

8:00 am-12:00 pm Exhibit Hall and Networking Lounge open

8:00-8:40 am

Nutrition : Novel ingredient for safe, effective, natural detoxification of pets -Robert Stezinar, DVM, CEO of Creogen Ltd., presents research showing how the composition and spatial structure of the volcanic mineral zeolite provide health-related beneficial effects for companion animals. Micronized zeolite clinoptilolite offers a novel petfood ingredient that is potent, bioavailable and efficacious.

Stezinar has over 20 years of hands-on business experience as an entrepreneur and business development manager for international, fast moving consumer goods companies. With Creogen, he develops and licenses value added food supplements, cosmetics, complementary animal feed and pharmaceutically active ingredients, and provides contract research and consulting.

Marketing/retail/packaging: Opportunities with secondary packaging of petfood products -Jarlath Harkin, product manager for EDL Packaging Engineers Inc., explores opportunities for improvements in secondary packaging, including current technologies and materials that create substantial potential to reduce cost and environmental impact.

Harkin has worked in the packaging industry for 18 years, including with petfood manufacturers in the US and Latin America, Europe and Australia. As a member of the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute and the Institute of Packaging Professionals, he has worked closely with manufacturers in developing new packaging and improving associated operations at both a plant and corporate level.

Safety/processing : Case study: Cooking meat slurry using inline direct steam injection -Matt Gordon, business development engineer, and Dave Mardon, national sales manager, of Hydro-Thermal explain a better, more efficient, space-saving method for processing today's popular high-meat petfoods, presenting a case study showing how a petfood manufacturer successfully used the method.

Gordon joined Hydro-Thermal in 2011 and, in 2012, earned his professional engineering license. Previously he worked as the lead engineer for Siemens Water Technologies. He graduated from Marquette University with a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering.

Mardon joined Hydro-Thermal in 2006 as a product manager, then became a regional manager, working with manufacturer reps, original equipment manufacturers and strategic partners, educating and training them on direct steam injection applications. He earned a bachelor of science in business administration from Buffalo State University.

8:45-9:25 am

Nutrition : Common dry beans as a novel ingredient in extruded diets for canine weight loss -Genevieve M. Forster, veterinary and doctoral student at Colorado State University, presents evidence supporting the feasibility, safety and digestibility of common dry beans as a potential novel source of protein, carbohydrates and fiber in extruded diets for overweight or obese dogs.

In her studies with the Departments of Clinical Sciences and Environmental and Radiologic Health Sciences at Colorado State, Forster focuses on canine cancer prevention using dietary interventions. She has several articles in review with scientific publications and has presented research at several conferences on companion animal diets, ingredients and canine cancer prevention.

Marketing/retail/packaging : Sustainability in the pet industry: Communicating benefits to consumers and retailers -Caitlyn Bolton, executive director of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition (PISC), explains the benefits of pursuing a sustainability-focused business model and tips on how to communicate sustainability strategies and practices to pet owners and pet retailers.

Bolton has a master degree in environmental management and sustainability from Harvard University. She has over five years of experience working in collaborative roles among governments, nonprofits and the private sector. In 2013, she joined PISC, a new organization comprised of leading pet organizations such as Cardinal Pet Care, Zuke's, the Honest Kitchen, Sojos, Petco and PetSmart.

Safety/processing : New technology: Controlling Salmonella past the primary critical control point -Richard B. Smittle, PhD, chief science officer for Micro-Nature LLC, describes a new technology that can be applied during petfood production to reduce Salmonella and other pathogenic re-contamination past the primary critical control point, such as extrusion, prior to packaging and after the package has been opened.

Smittle earned a doctorate in food science from North Carolina State University, a master of science in agricultural bacteriology and a bachelor of arts in biology from West Virginia University. Prior to founding Smittle Consulting and Micro-Nature, he worked for US Pet Nutrition, Silliker Laboratories Group, Best Foods Co. and the Food and Drug Administration.

9:25-10:15 am Coffee break in Exhibit Hall

9:25-10:15 am Visit with US military veterans and their dogs from America's VetDogs

10:15 am-12:00 pm Discussion sessions  (also see

Nutritional sustainability of petfoods: can we create a more sustainable system? -led by Kelly Swanson, PhD, associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences/Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois, based on a paper he co-authored in early 2013 that looks at how competition with livestock feeds and human foods, high consumer demands and pet anthropomorphism is impacting our industry.

Swanson received a doctorate in nutritional sciences from the university and did post-doctoral work there on functional genomics. Currently, he teaches companion animal nutrition to veterinary, undergraduate and graduate students. As a leader in companion animal nutrition and nutrigenomics, primarily in gastrointestinal health and obesity, Swanson heads a research program that has gained international recognition.

Joining Swanson will be Andrea J. Fascetti, VMD, PhD, DACVIM, DACVN, professor of nutrition at the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California-Davis, commenting from the veterinarian's and pet owner's perspectives. Fascetti holds a doctoral degree in nutrition from UC-Davis and veterinary medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Jason Rokey, purchasing manager for Lortscher Animal Nutrition, will also join the panel. His expertise includes developing inventory parameters for over 700 ingredients, overseeing all aspects of the ingredient supply chain, directing and administering Lortscher's vendor assurance program and designing hedging programs to meet the specific needs of clients.

How distributor consolidation is affecting petfood retailing -led by Mark Kalaygian, editor-in-chief of Pet Business magazine. Consolidation among distributors to the US pet specialty channel has been heating up, fueled by outside investment. This has significant implications for pet retailers, especially small, independent pet stores, which could have difficulty maintaining the variety of products, including petfoods, they use to differentiate themselves from large pet store chains.

Kalaygian is editor-in-chief of Pet Business, a publication for US pet specialty retailers based in New York City, New York, USA. He has more than a decade of experience covering the pet care market. Previously he served as an editor with Executive Business Media.

Kalaygian will be joined by Steve King, president of the US Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), who, in his role, has watched the number of pet product distributors decrease from about 150 in the mid-1990s to only 50 today. King is also president of King Management Group Inc., which partners with select non-profit organizations to provide personalized service to members.

Plus one other speaker to be named.

Impending regulatory crisis for petfood ingredient standards and approval -led by George Burdock, PhD, president of the Burdock Group. The melamine-related petfood recalls of 2007 spurred passage of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA) that same year, which mandated regulations addressing petfood ingredient standards and definitions, processing standards and updated labeling standards. FDA will soon be turning its attention back to FDAAA, especially as it reviews its memorandum of understanding with the Association of American Feed Control Officials on petfood ingredient definitions.

Burdock is an internationally recognized authority on food ingredient safety, with more than 25 years of experience dealing with regulatory issues, product safety and risk assessment. He has published over 40 articles in scientific journals and several books. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition.

Burdock will be joined by Ray Matulka, PhD, director of toxicology for the Burdock Group, who has more than a decade of experience in the analysis of toxicity data and conducting safety and risk assessments. He earned a doctorate in toxicology from the Medical College of Virginia and has post-doctoral experience at Boston University School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina.

David Dzanis, DVM, PhD, DACVN, will serve on the panel, too. He is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and CEO of Regulatory Discretion Inc., a consulting firm for the petfood, supplement and ingredient industries in matters relating to regulation. He writes a monthly column on petfood regulatory issues for Petfood Industry.

Also joining the panel will be David R. Schoneker, director of global regulatory affairs for Colorcon, where he coordinates worldwide regulatory activities and raw material assessments. Schoneker received a bachelor of science from Ursinus College and master of science in chemistry from Villanova University.

12:00-1:15 pm Lunch/closing keynote:  Wells, Jones, CEO of America's VetDogs, explains how his organization selects, trains, feeds, cares for and provides service dogs to military veterans. VetDogs is part of the Guide Dog Foundation. After the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the organization saw a need to provide service dogs, too, that help their human partners in many ways in their daily lives.

Jones has served as CEO of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind Inc. since 1989 and as president and CEO of America's VetDogs since 2006. Under his leadership, the organization constructed a new training center, complete with a state-of-the-art kennel, as well a newly designed student residence hall.

12:00-10:00 pm Exhibitor teardown

Petfood Workshop schedule

For full descriptions of topics and speakers, visit

Wednesday, April 2

12:00-2:00 pm Registration/check-in

2:00-3:00 pm Opening keynote: Why doesn't the dumb shopper buy my brand?-Matthew Diamond and James Fraser, VPs with Hunter Straker, take you on a journey through the in-store environment, exploring the pet category in more detail and helping better understand what the shopper really sees. They have a saying: "Consumers are smart and shoppers are dumb." This is ironic because they are the same person in many cases. Diamond and Fraser observe how the petfood shopper works in the consumer mind-set, with time spent pursuing the perfect balance of pet nutrition, reward and indulgence, which in many cases can exceed the amount of time spent on other, non-pet members of their family.

3:00-3:20 pm Coffee break

3:20-4:35 pm First round of breakout sessions (each an interactive workshop; attendees rotate among the four rooms):

Putting the BOOM in your Bottom Line: Building loyalty and engagement with the almighty boomer consumer-Kristen Levine, pet expert and president of Fetching Communications and offers an interactive session intended to help petfood companies define their 50+ market strategy. The session will include comprehensive profiling of the boomer consumer and how to build loyalty and engagement with the generation responsible for bringing pets from the backyard to the bedroom.

Using social media to connect with consumers-Dana Humphrey, marketing and public relations consultant, discusses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Tumblr. Social media platforms keep appearing, rising and falling in popularity and usage-how can a marketer keep up? Learn which social media resonate with which types of pet parents and for which purposes.

The art of repackaging: How design, strong branding and smart investment can completely revamp your brand-Stefan Hartung, creative director for Ideas that Kick, and Matt Golladay, vice president of Blackwood Pet Food/Ohio Pet Foods, offer advice on how you can make sure your products stand out on crowded retail shelves as the number of petfood and treat lines keeps increasing. Ideas that Kick recently helped Blackwood repackage is petfood lines, gleaning helpful tips for how much information pet parents want to find on petfood packaging, how credible they view label claims to be and which design techniques best grab their attention..

Education: the missing link in petfood marketing?-Melissa Brookshire, DVM, president of North River Enterprises, asks if you're still letting misinformation on the internet guide the perception of your brand? Learn how to use tools to educate your customer base and potential customers. More importantly, learn how to empower your customer support team to be the best advocates for your brand. Don't forget this critical piece of marketing power. Education is king!

4:40-5:55 pm Second round of breakout sessions

6:00-7:00 pm Reception

Thursday, April 3

7:00-8:00 am Breakfast

8:00-9:15 am General session: Ask the experts panel-Here's your chance to ask a panel of experts everything you've ever wanted to know about petfood marketing. Panel members include Serge Boutet; animal nutrition expert and petfood consultant, Wendy Shankin-Cohen; president and CEO of Dr. Harvey's Pet Food, David Sprinkle; research director for Packaged Facts, and Don Tomala; managing partner of Matrix Partners Ltd.

9:15-9:45 am Coffee break

9:45-11:00 am Third round of breakout sessions

11:05 am-12:20 pm Fourth round of breakout sessions

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