When a five-year business plan becomes a right-now plan

Surviving the changes 2020 threw at us is going to take flexibility, adaptation and an increase in innovation, according to pet food industry experts.

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2021 won’t come without its own set of challenges; ask all the right questions and be prepared. | (HAKINMHAN | iStock.com)
2021 won’t come without its own set of challenges; ask all the right questions and be prepared. | (HAKINMHAN | iStock.com)

Welcome to 2021, and Petfood Industry's annual trends issue. At the end of each year, we speak to as many segments of the pet food industry as we can, looking to build an image of what you should be aware of and what trends are likely to shape your business in the coming year. One year ago the top predicted trends were sustainability and quality (AKA, increasing customer demands on pet food’s place in their pets’ lives), and you’re going to see more of that this year in even more complex ways (p. xx).

Beyond that, one recurring theme wrapped around every recent industry conversation I’ve had is the unexpected but now fully active acceleration of many things we were only beginning to truly delve into at the beginning of 2020. E-commerce, already on the rise, is suddenly a business necessity. The way consumers shop has abruptly changed. Innovation took a back seat as everyone felt the urge to buckle down and survive to see the other side of the year.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s time to prepare for a different future.

What companies are most likely to make it through to 2022? According to industry experts, you must be able to pivot. Flexibility is vital. Your business plan required rewrites in 2020; everyone’s did. How will you respond to the new (digital) ways you’ll need to reach your customers? How will you innovate and get those innovations to market? How will you adapt to the changing needs of pet owners who may continue to work from home, or new pet owners wrapping up their first full year of pet ownership? Do you have contingency plans for the depressed (but hopefully recovering) economy for the next year? How will you continue to emphasize safety — of your products, of your employees, of your supply chain?

No man is an island, and no company is, either. Gaining the right partnerships will set you up to succeed. Understanding who customers want to do business with (companies with a mission, such as this issue’s cover profile [p. xx], are high on the list!) will give you a target to shoot for. And maintaining flexibility, this time planne, will make 2021 a lot more palatable than 2020.

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