Last week I attended Global Pet Expo, the pet industry's largest annual trade show, which takes place every year at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
The show is massive, with more than 900 companies showcasing their products over an area the equivalent of 13 football fields.
This was my third consecutive year at the Expo, which gets bigger and bigger every year.
After spending hours and hours talking with pet food company owners and reps, makers of treats, supplement manufacturers and toy and accessory developers, here are some of my observations:
Cats' food preferences are starting to matter. Two raw food companies told me about the expanded cat lines they will be introducing later this year. We're talking beef and venison formulas. Woot!
Stella & Chewy's customers, it is time to rejoice! After a series of setbacks, the freeze-dried cats and dog foods are finally being produced on schedule. A combination of factors affected production. With demand up 74 percent for freeze-dried foods (industry-wide), the company knew they had to expand production. They invested $1 million in a new freeze-drying machine, which promptly broke during its first run. That is why it has been so difficult to find the food in stores and online. That, coupled with a move to a new facility, which also slowed production, really hurt Stella & Chewy's. But the nightmare is over and retailers are now receiving their orders.
The Cone Of Shame may soon be nothing more than an ugly memory. There is a company called Suitical that introduced the Recovery Shirt at the Expo. There are several sizes for dogs and a special suit for cats.
Kathy Ireland's Loved Ones line of toys, beds, bowls and furniture for pets is as beautiful as she is. And she is much taller than I thought.
The folks at Barkworthies made me feel a whole lot better about recommending Antlers as chews for dogs. The company told me that they only use antlers that have naturally been naturally shed and are 100% sustainable. And all are sourced right here in the USA. I was also impressed that they offer different sizes and even half antlers for older dogs.
Our pets are apparently anxious and have terrible oral health. The two biggest trends I witnessed were Calming Solutions And Dental Care. And not just in the Natural Products section - plenty of conventional companies are bringing products to market. Look for more calming formulas in topical sprays, room sprays, treats, teas, liquids and tablets. Dental support is being offered by many companies in the form of treats, chew toys, pastes, gels, sprays and liquids.
Speaking of the Natural Product section, it has nearly doubled since I attended my first show in 2013. This is in line with consumer demand. According to Packages Facts, a market research firm, natural pet products are expected to grow by 15 percent over a three-year period and will reach an estimated $9.4 billion by 2017.
The American Pet Products Association also offered this:
The food category is by far the leading source of dollars spent within the industry. As the pet industry continues to mirror human food and diet trends, pet owners are becoming more aware of the quality and source of food given to their animal companions. Pet food manufacturers are offering new varieties of food for dietary preferences, medical issues, overall health, and other partialities, and pet owners are paying for these options.
In the coming weeks and months, I will continue to share information on products and trends through this blog.