Changes in The Pet Food Industry

Repeat after me: Problems bring opportunities.


Last month, I mentioned that I was going to attend Petfood Forum, an industry conference held annually in Chicago. As it turned out, it was the perfect place to be while news was breaking daily about expanding recalls. All the players were there: manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, testing labs, and pet food company executives. It was an ideal place to be a fly on the wall – at least, until I gave the talk (“Scrutinizing Super-Premium Pet Foods”) that I was invited to present!

Nancy Kerns


Given my general anxiety (I’ve never given a talk to a room full of people before), I may not be the best judge of the reception I received. It’s a fact that the room was full; my talk was well-attended. But it seemed to me that the audience, though polite, was also awfully quiet, almost grim. Well, the industry is taking its lumps right now, and I might have been just laying it on thicker at a time when they’d rather not be reminded about the importance of ingredient quality.

To their credit, I saw nothing but genuine contrition and concern from industry reps about the recent pet food recalls. I also never met or heard anyone at the meeting who appeared to be more concerned with covering their butts or “spinning” the news. Instead, I heard many, many discussions about how to change “business as usual” in the industry, how to improve pet food ingredient testing and tracing, product recalls, and consumer relations. Given the presentation I saw given by an industry analyst, indicating that the most robust growth in the pet food market is in the “natural, holistic, organic” sector, I get the feeling that the postures that I witnessed were authentic.

¡ö I’m sorry that certain articles that have been lurking on the “what’s ahead” box on page 24 have not yet been forthcoming, whereas other unanticipated articles keep cropping up! With their long production lead times, monthly magazines are not ideally positioned to cover breaking news stories like the pet food recalls, but we’ve been doing our best to cover these important issues in as timely as matter as possible – even if it has caused some chaos in our lineup. Long-overdue articles on essential fatty acids, puppy classes, and lipomas will appear as soon as possible.

¡ö Cooper, the Australian Shepherd who appears with me in the photo below, died on April 25 at the age of 13. He was my father-in-law’s dog, although in recent months he had been living with my husband and me in our part-time home in Oroville, as my in-laws were preparing to sell their house.

I’ve provided vacation dog care for Coop for a decade, and borrowed him frequently for product testing and modeling duty – he was a perfect model and could learn a new trick to perform for the camera within minutes. Besides chewing up a few dog beds, I can’t think of anything he ever did wrong. I’ll miss his cheery, goofy, sweet face – in person and in the magazine – more than I can say.