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Industry Reports Robust Business at Global Pet Expo


Global Pet Expo, held March 22 to 24 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., shattered records this year, and manufacturers, retailers and other industry participants report that the annual event provided myriad opportunities to buy, sell and network their way toward their business goals. 

The show, which is presented by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), sold out the exhibit space that made up the general show floor and special sections for the first time, said Andy Darmohraj, executive vice president and COO of APPA.

The 343,700 net square feet of exhibit space featured 1,130 pet product manufacturers touting their products and services to the 6,629 independent retailers, distributors and mass-market buyers who attended the show. Darmohraj reported an 8 percent growth in show exhibitors and more than a 10 percent increase in the number of attendees. 

Exhibitors showcased the latest products for all types of pets including dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, small animals and horses. More than 3,000 new products were launched at this year’s show.

Retail buyers were excited to learn about the expansive products showcased on the show floor. Tayler Eastman and Brittany Eastman, co-owners of Eastman’s Escape for Healthy Pets LLC, a dog care facility in Winter Park, Fla., attended the show to research dog treats in response to customer requests.

“We took a poll with a pet parent group, and they requested dog treats in our store,” Tayler said. “So we have every sample ever [from the show floor].”

Global Pet Expo is the pet trade show of choice for Tayler and Brittany, as it is located only 20 minutes from their home.

“It’s overwhelming, but it’s amazing,” Tayler said. “We have learned more about dog and cat food, and everyone has been really informative.” 

Others were less impressed with what they saw on the show floor.

“[The show] was OK. I think it is getting a little big, and it is mostly the same,” said Paul Allen, CEO of Woof Gang Bakery, an Orlando, Fla.-based dog treat bakery and grooming franchise. 

However, Allen valued the opportunity to gather the company’s franchisees from across the nation in a convenient location.

“It is our national convention for our franchise and a time we get 100-plus of our franchisees together,” Allen said.

On the industry side, Mike Bober, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), said the event presents industry members with a prime opportunity to interact with people face to face. 

“What I really love about the show is the energy and the enthusiasm,” he said.

Bober also noted that the expo offers an opportune time and place to work on key issues. For example, at the show, PIJAC presented the Small Animal Care Standards, which are intended to define criteria for the ethical care of animals. Show attendees were invited to ask questions and offer feedback on the standards, which have been in the drafting stage since the SuperZoo trade show in Las Vegas last summer.

The organization also hosted what Bober described as “an excellent conversation” with Bernadette Juarez, the deputy administrator of animal care for the

United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The conversation addressed many top-of-mind issues for the pet industry including the USDA’s decision to remove animal welfare inspection reports from its website and other matters related to the breeding and distribution of animals in the pet trade.

Bober said he was encouraged by the work done at the show.

“The industry is moving forward and moving forward well,” he said.

The New Products Showcase served as an example of how the industry is moving forward. Attendees were able to preview more than 1,000 new products in the special section on the show floor. The New Products Showcase awards presentation on March 23 ranked as one of the many highlights of the show for both manufacturers and retailers alike.

Officials for the Hagen Group, which won the best in show and second place New Product Showcase awards in the reptile category for its Exo Terra Gecko Food and Exo Terra Tall Terrarium, respectively, raved about the award ceremony. 

“We are really excited about our awards in the New Product Showcase. They are validation of all the research and development that we came to market with,” said Damian Hall, senior marketing manager at Hagen Group of Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., noting that the company goes to great lengths to research the needs and natural tendencies of animals when developing its products.

Hagen Group debuted its new branding at this year’s pet expo. Bustling with visitors, the booth attracted attendees with a robust offering of new products in several categories, as well as a handful of playful and adoptable kittens—supplied by the Pet Alliance for Orlando—that helped showcase the full array of Catit playground options at the adjacent Catit booth.

“This year’s show has been a great success,” Hall said. “We have been able to debut many new products and received positive reactions from our retail partners. The success of the show started long before the doors opened; it began with our product teams developing relevant product and our marketing and sales teams engaging our partners to visit our booths.”

In addition to debuting new products, Hagen Group made a significant investment to build out its booth at this year’s show, said COO Thomas Marshall.

“It has to be viable,” he said.

And it was.

“Our sales team was booked solid before the doors opened.”

Lucy Pet Products, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., also heavily invested in its sizable booth, which featured the company’s road-bound spay and neuter bus, and brand ambassadors Ricky the rescue cat and Surfin’ Jack dog. The company’s first pet food offering, Lucy Pet Formulas for Life, was highlighted at the booth.

“Booth traffic has been terrific,” said Joey Herrick, president and founder of Lucy Pet. “We’ve seen so many customers who are all happy about our new food.” 

However, attendees who did not make it to the booth might have already missed the bus—literally. Herrick said it’s heading back on the road, and he will be redesigning the booth for future shows. Attendees can expect something “eclectic and homegrown,” he said, adding that he didn’t want it to have a “slick, corporate” feel.

Having the opportunity to talk to customers in person was valuable to Moderna Products America, based in Gaffney, S.C. Global Pet Expo served as an opportunity to have its products recognized “as being U.S. made with high-quality designs and value pricing,” said Bruce J. Flantzer, Moderna’s North American director of sales and marketing.

Moderna asked show attendees to leave their John Hancock on a wall banner at the company’s booth, and for each signature the company received, Moderna donated $1 to Karma Rescue, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.

The fundraiser was modeled after a similar one launched by Moderna’s European headquarters at the Zoomark International pet trade show a couple of years ago. Flantzer said the company secured more than 1,500 signatures at Zoomark and donated more than 1,500 euros in the name of the European pet industry.

“The value of the show for us is that we’ve always been known as a European company, and now we can truly be known as both a European and American company,” Flantzer said. “We’re totally an international company.”

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