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Pet Industry Advisory Conference: Tidbits Gleaned and Cats Rock

Posted: February 24, 2011, 5:30 p.m., EDT

In 2010, veteran event planner Roz Applebaum launched a series of pet industry conferences that have proven to be both educational and entertaining. I recently attended the 2nd annual "Pet Industry Transformation” conference in Las Vegas where I heard a series of highly informative, educational pet industry veterans speak on topics ranging from "What’s New with Pet Food” to "Understanding the Buying Behaviors of Active/Outdoor Pet Owners.”

There were more than a dozen speakers, including Bob Vetere, president of American Pet Products Association; Dr. Marty Glinsky, a pet food manufacturing expert; and Brad Butler, whose family founded Butler Animal Health.
I thought it would be great to share some of the more compelling and interesting facts gleaned over the conference.

• The pet market has almost doubled in size in the last 12 years. I can only imagine how much it has grown since I joined in 1987. If the government broke out our industry separately, it would be the 8th largest retail segment in the U.S. Larger then toys + jewelry + candy combined. Larger than the GNP of Puerto Rico.
• Cat owners are 30 percent more likely to use social media than non-cat owners; dog owners 15 percent more likely. They didn’t mention why--would be interesting to make the correlation between cat owners’ personality and the use of social media.
• Frontline is the first-ever pet product to reach $1 billion in sales.
• Although veterinary franchises such as VCA and Banfield are growing quickly, they still represent less than 10 percent of the vet practices in the U.S.
• One of the threats to the veterinary industry is the shortage of vets. Women now make up more than one-half of vet school students, but they leave the industry at much higher rates them men because of the desire to stay home and have a family.
• Generic pet drugs represent one of the biggest growth opportunities in the industry.
• Facebook users spend more than 500 billion minutes a month on the FB website.
• Almost 50 percent of pets are overweight. Overweight animals are in danger of developing many of the same ailments as overweight humans, including cancer, diabetes, and heart and joint problems. Exercising with a dog is a great way to keep both the owner and pet from developing these illnesses.
• According to Ann Hudson, director of corporate affairs at Royal Canin, 73 percent of people say they have a strong emotional connection to their pets. I’m actually surprised that isn’t higher. Cat owners and those over 55 years old rank the highest--79 percent have a strong emotional connection. The percent is lowest for pet owners with children.
• Only 15 percent of dog and 9 percent of cat owners admit to cutting back on things for their pets during the last 12 months.

I see a pattern here for cats and their owners. They use more social media, are more likely to have a strong connection with their pet, and are willing to spend money on their cats, even in tough times. I think the market is ripe for new, unique, innovative cat products. As a consultant, I get to see a lot of new product ideas. I’m happy to say that I am seeing more and more cool cat concepts and my guess is many of these will be introduced in the next year, and maybe we’ll see some of them at Global Pet Expo next month.

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