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Pet Industry Leadership Conference Looks Ahead

Executives met at the event in sunny Southern California to discuss how to make the future of the pet industry even brighter.


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The economy, millennials, minimum resale price and minimum advertised price policies, fostering relationships with distributors and, of course, what one speaker called the “A-word” (that would be Amazon). These are just some of the subjects of import that were covered at the second annual Pet Industry Leadership Conference, which took place Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at the Montage resort in Laguna Beach, Calif., where industry executives and management convened against a backdrop of sparkling sand and surf to discuss the state of the pet industry and how to advance it.

The conference, which was organized by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), kicked off with a keynote address by Josh Linkner titled “Harnessing Innovation: Turning Raw Ideas Into Powerful Results.” A professional jazz guitarist, tech entrepreneur and startup investor, Linkner discussed how creativity can be used to yield practical, business-building results.

Mitch Lebovic Photography

The mood at the conference was optimistic, said APPA president and CEO Bob Vetere.

“Everyone was very upbeat about the industry and the direction it is heading,” he said. “The speakers were all very informative and had a lot of meaningful insights into the pet industry.”

Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), was impressed by the number of senior-level executives present. The conference drew nearly 300 attendees.

“They’re always thinking about business, but this is a conference where they’re really thinking about big issues and how we can work together to advance the industry,” he said.

HABRI participated in the event’s tabletop exhibits, where attendees talked one on one with representatives from suppliers and other industry organizations. Feldman said he enjoyed having the chance to educate people on the human-animal bond and how his organization is a part of the pet industry’s future.

Mitch Lebovic Photography

Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council president and CEO Mike Bober announced that the pet industry contributed more than $221 billion to the economy in 2015.

“It’s a good opportunity to get people thinking a little bit differently about what their responsibilities are as a pet industry executive; it’s not just about buying and selling, distributing, that kind of thing,” he said. “It’s also about what we can all do to make sure that five, 10, 25 years from now, this is a thriving business.”

Steve King, president of PIDA, noted that working together was one of the greatest takeaways from the event.

“The pet industry is strongest when we all work together for the common good,” he said. “Attendees got to hear about the great work being done by PIJAC, the Pet Care Trust, HABRI and the Pet Leadership Council (PLC). These organizations depend on the support of the entire industry to advance the cause of pet ownership and a sustainable supply of healthy, humanely raised pets.”

The occasion allowed manufacturers, distributors and retailers to talk about industry issues with a shared goal, Vetere noted.

Mitch Lebovic Photography

“You can see how the Pet Industry Leadership Conference is maturing in its second year to be an even more important industrywide event than last year,” he added. “This is a strong building block in bringing the many pieces of the industry together.”  

The conference closed on a high note—it was announced that the pet industry contributed more than $221 billion to the economy in 2015, according to a study conducted by George Mason University that was released that day. The economic analysis also showed the pet industry supported more than 1.3 million U.S. jobs in 2015 that paid more than $60 billion in salaries, wages and benefits.

PIJAC funded the independent study in partnership with the PLC.

Steven Feldman, executive director of the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, with Lindsey Melfi, program manager

“As we continue our efforts to provide for and protect the health and well-being of our companion animals, this report is an encouraging sign that responsible pet ownership is on the rise and that this industry is having a positive impact on our country, both in terms of the benefits we derive from pets and those that we provide them in return,” PIJAC president and CEO Mike Bober said in a statement released that day.

Next year’s event will take place at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Fla., Jan. 29 to Feb. 1, and attendees can expect further refinements.

“We are always looking at ways to improve and add value to the conference,” King said. “Including the tabletop vendors in more of the program this year was one improvement that was well received. Once we have reviewed the attendee evaluations from this year’s event, we’ll begin planning for next year’s conference.”

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