For the Love of Pets
Like Vegas itself, SuperZoo can be a bit of a spectacle. As you wander from booth to booth, you might find yourself in a ’50s-style diner one minute and a log cabin the next, or you could pretend to explore the great outdoors with the various Airstreams and other trailers on-site. Try-your-luck games were plentiful, with several booths offering games of cornhole and prize wheels, and Midwestern Pet Foods’ Earthborn Holistic booth, promoting the brand’s new Unrefined line of pet food, even had a cash-grab booth, giving attendees the chance to win hundreds of dollars on the spot. As in Vegas, the trade show’s hosting city, bigger is better, and perhaps no one took this more seriously than King Wholesale Pet Supplies, which deposited a gigantic model of a Shar-Pei dog near the entrance to the show floor.
But as I walked the Strip pre- and post-show last week, my senses overwhelmed by larger-than-life entertainment, fabulous, incongruous architecture and a cornucopia of bright lights, I came to the conclusion that SuperZoo has one very important thing Vegas’ famous stretch of casinos and nightlife does not: a big, beating heart.
The evening before the show, I joined Nulo at its launch party for the company’s Frontrunner and Challenger dog food lines. The company’s founder and CEO, Michael Landa, told attendees how much he was inspired by his dog Max, who had passed away recently. Max’s image was emblazoned on Nulo employees’ shoes, and a picture of the Labrador, superimposed with the word “love,” could be found on the T-shirts all attendees received.
Later that evening, I met a Nulo team member who told me about his dog who had passed away the previous year. He talked about the color of her fur and her eyes, and what she was like as a puppy. It couldn’t have been clearer that he was completely smitten.
On the show floor, a woman who designs products for cats excitedly showed me photos of her three new kittens but then spoke wistfully about a beloved cat that had passed away, a beautiful black longhair who seemed born for the camera. One of the kittens, she said, seemed to have a bit of the same spirit as the older cat.
I also bumped into Allison Raithel, director of nutritional wellness for Healthy Pet Products, which has stores in Pittsburgh. She’d never been to SuperZoo. What inspired her to cross the country and visit the show for the first time? She and a co-worker were able to combine their SuperZoo trip—a big draw of the trade show being the educational components, Raithel noted—with the opportunity to volunteer their time at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, which is a few hours’ drive from Las Vegas. Although it might sound cheesy, she said, the three days spent volunteering at the pet sanctuary, which is located in the gorgeous canyon country of southern Utah, were simply “magical.”
These and so many of the other interactions I had with people at SuperZoo reminded me that while pets are big business, most of the people in this industry are in it for something far dearer to them than money—they’re in it for the love of pets.
Carrie Brenner is senior editor for Pet Product News International. She has spent several years researching new products with the help of her cat, Amelia.