A Growth Experience
Outgoing World Pet Association (WPA) president Doug Poindexter (left) with incoming WPA president Jacinthe Moreau.
The 2017 edition of the Aquatic Experience, held at the Schaumberg Convention Center in Schaumburg, Ill., Nov. 3-4, boasted more vendors and attendees than any previous year. Originally billed as the first trade show in the pet industry to feature everything aquatic under one roof, this year’s show delivered as promised, with numerous booths and displays highlighting every aquatic category with a wide range of products, and showcasing some leading trends such as aquasacaping and shrimp breeding.
The event also marked a milestone for World Pet Association (WPA)—the producer of Aquatic Experience, as well as SuperZoo and America’s Family Pet Expo—as longtime president Doug Poindexter walked his last show as the leader of WPA, retiring officially at the end of December after 27 years at the helm. Poindexter will be replaced by Jacinthe Moreau, who brings with her broad experience in the animal health industry, including roles at VCA Animal Hospital and VetSource.
“We couldn’t be happier to welcome Jacinthe as incoming president and newest member of the WPA family,” Poindexter said. “She already feels like family, having spent nine years on our board, and she will bring unprecedented experience to the job. With the relevant experience she brings from the veterinary field as well as her business acumen, she is the ideal candidate to take WPA to the next level.”
Moreau was upbeat about her preparation for the new role.
“For now, I just want to immerse myself into learning this job as best I can, and in six months or so I should be ready to hit the ground running,” Moreau said. “I’ve been well versed in the matters of the organization for several years, so our mission is unchanged and our vision is clear.”
While the 2017 show marked Poindexter’s last as WPA president, it continued making strides in becoming a premier, not-to-be-missed event for both aquatic hobbyists and industry professionals. Booth vendors expressed that they were pleased to have an opportunity to exhibit at a show that focuses on aquatics only. They also welcomed the opportunity to encounter thousands of enthusiastic hobbyists of all ages and experience levels under one roof, as other pet shows focus so heavily on dogs and cats. Manufacturers enjoyed the chance to speak directly to consumers about their products, talk about new releases and get their feedback on various topics concerning the hobby.
Aquatic Experience bustled with activity the entire weekend, a clear sign that the consumer was the main point of focus. Among the hottest tickets at the event was the Sea Lion Splash, a live stage show presenting a mischievous family of sea lions that captivated audiences with their up-close-and-personal stage antics. The Aquascaping Live! Contest was another strong pull on attendees’ attention, as contestants worked feverishly throughout the weekend creating beautiful aquascapes and vying for cash prizes in two categories. Also known as “aquatic gardening,” this hobby is one of the year’s hottest trends.
Perhaps the most unique attraction at the show was the second International Shrimp Contest USA. Dozens of 2.5-gallon tanks were lined up side by side with nothing but charcoal gray gravel in them and nearly microscopic shrimp. Selective breeding that takes place with these shrimp is time consuming and costly, but for those who can perfect the method to consistently breed a particularly interesting looking shrimp that no one else has, the reward is great. One shrimp can earn between $3,000 and $5,000.
The main hall was full of displays, including the Florida Tropical Fish Farms Association’s (FTFFA) wall of 65 decorated aquariums stocked with a variety of ornamental tropical fish and aquatic plants. Another display sponsored by Aqueon, Hikari, Tetra, Fluval, Segrest Farms, CaribSea, Estes’ and Jellyfish Art featured fish from around the world in a stunning 2,000-square-foot aquatics presentation. It was both educational and entertaining, especially the giant electric eel that will reportedly grow to more than 6 feet long and pack 860 volts of electricity.
As is the case with one of the more popular trends to come along in recent years, coral frags were highly visible in splendid array. Lots of people purchased frags at great prices for their home displays, and there was a great deal of coral to choose from.
WPA will be moving the Aquatic Experience to Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, N.J., in 2018. Chris Clevers, a longtime WPA board member and the president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif., explained the decision to relocate the event.
“The original idea always was to move the show between three locations to try to access the highest percentage of aquatic-minded consumers possible,” Clevers said. “Chicago was originally chosen due to its easy access from anywhere in the country and due to the fact it has a very high aquatic following. We stayed there longer than anticipated because some of our assumptions did not play out as expected, and we felt like we really needed to dial everything in there before moving to location No. 2. Our plans are to go back to Chicago after a year or two in the New York area. Future dates and locations are predicated on the support for the show from industry and attendance by aquatic-minded consumers.”
Aquatic Experience 2018 will be held Oct. 19-21.