Petfood Forum 2018: Addressing Key Trends and Challenges

Premiumisation, healthy living along with e-commerce are key trends driving growth in the pet care industry across the globe. Premiumisation helped define and generate growth in the industry for many years, but the different ways it has done so have changed over time. Related to premiumisation is the rise in healthy living lifestyles, which has impacted the way owners interact with their pets, especially the way they feed them. Finally, the rise of e-commerce is changing the way pet parents are shopping, which in many markets, has allowed consumers to access more premium offerings that otherwise would not be available.

Petfood Forum 2018, taking place 23-25 April in Kansas City, Missouri, will dive into these trends, among others, and is set to be another insightful and successful edition. With food players coming to the industry, the debate is meant to be quite interesting, particularly as more bands are expanding their channel coverage and enlarging their scope into other channels – one only needs to think of a specialty brand that recently went to mass market or the case of mass now moving into the pet specialty arena.


Premium dog and cat food has been driving players’ strategies for years. Innovation is expected to come from across a range of differing strategies. On the one hand, gourmet-style food is popular in many markets; on the other, natural and more artisanal food bodes well with younger consumers who are on the lookout for such products.

Petfood Forum 2018 will take a look at premiumisation and healthy living in pet food in several education sessions throughout the conference. Below are a few not-to-miss sessions on the topic.

My pets eat better than me: Pet specialty data and trends show why

  • April 24 | 9:30-10:15 AM | Grand Ballroom A, Kansas City Convention Center
  • Younger generations continue to adopt a parenting mentality when it comes to their pets, which is influencing their desire for healthier, clean label, human-grade pet food options. Natasha Davis, client service manager for GfK, will discuss how this humanisation trend is driving premiumisation in the pet specialty channel, which categories are being impacted as a result and strategies for 2018.

Healthy living

The concept of health has changed over the years, and it now entails a more holistic, preventative and global approach, including wellbeing. A change in human eating habits and patterns has been driven by the need to take greater control over what is eaten, its quality and its quantity. This has given rise to a number of product reformulations, changes in packaging either for convenience or for portion control, and a number of “cut-downs”: sugar and salt being the main ones. The rise of intolerance and allergies, or just the idea that some foods or nutrients are preferable, has also led to a rise in free-from diets.

Closely related to premiumisation are the Petfood Forum 2018 sessions that will address these more health-conscious consumers, formulations and diets that are impacting pet food.

High-moisture extrusion of plant-based and hybrid pet food products: Important principles

  • April 24 | 1:30-2:00 PM | Processing and Safety Track – Room 2504
  • Focusing on which trends are expected to have a significant impact in industry, plant-based protein is one of the hot topics this year. Volker Lammers, PhD, head of process engineering at the German Institute of Food Technologists, will dive into this trends and the processes surrounding its inclusion in pets’ diets.

The evolution and future of the grain-free ingredients market

  • April 24 | 3:30-4:00 PM | Marketing Track – Room 2505
  • This will be the topic of Isaac Mathews, director – pet food ingredients division for Lansing Trade Group, will speak to the evolution of grain-free within pet food, touching on the impact of demand, sustainability, purchasing power and nutritional profiles on formulation.

The rise of e-commerce

E-commerce continues to impact pet food purchases, allowing consumers to compare prices, often lower prices, read user reviews and a wider product selection. In the US, as technologically-aware millennials became more prominent as pet owners, their proclivity for shopping online has translated into growth in e-commerce for pet care. At the same time, subscription programmes offered by retailers, such as or, provide great convenience.

The relevance and even disruptive power of e-commerce was very apparent in the acquisition of Chewy by PetSmart, the largest US pet store chained retailer. In fact, recent years showed that e-commerce poses strong competition to pet retailers. Nevertheless, due to the acquisition, smaller brands have already dropped the retailer, as it is now not aligned with their niche positioning.

E-commerce is also influencing premiumisation in that a wider assortment can provide consumers with access to more premium choices. Petfood Forum 2018 will address this shifting shopper journey and what it means for players in the industry.

Following today’s pet food shopping journey

  • April 24 | 1:30-2:00 PM | Marketing Track – Room 2505
  • Continuing down the path of ever-changing pet ownership and the new shopper journey, Rebecca Casey, senior marketing director for TC Transcontinental Packaging, will highlight pet owners’ shopping preferences and identify opportunities and challenges for pet food purchases across channels.

Overall, from trends to formulations, key challenges in the pet care industry will be addressed at Petfood Forum 2018. For more information, visit