As the animal food industry — particularly manufacturers of dog and cat food — continues to be a clear stronghold of support for the overall agricultural economy, it’s crucial that processors, suppliers, brands and product developers are supported with information and education, as well as advocated for at the federal and state regulatory levels.
Fortunately, there are a variety of associations and organizations who represent the best interests of pet food processors, pet owners and pets alike. In our Pet Food Processing 2019 Resource Guide, we asked the major pet food and treat industry associations about their short- and long-term agendas as a resource to manufacturers. Keep reading to learn more about these organizations and how they have and continue to serve pet food producers.
Pet Food Institute
Safety is always top-of-mind for Pet Food Institute (PFI), a pet food and treat industry organization that advocates for United States manufacturers in Washington D.C. and across the country on the bases of food safety, pet nutrition and regulatory compliance.
PFI currently represents 25 producer members. To qualify for membership, a pet food or treat business must be compliant with Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, exhibit up-to-date Good Manufacturing Practices, and have at least one processing facility located in the United States. Member companies are encouraged to participate in committees, such as the Product Safety Subcommittee, which fosters research and sharing best practices and breakthroughs in support of pet food and treat safety.
“Pet food and treat safety is the number one goal for Pet Food Institute, and much of our work is guided by the principle of how we can promote the production of safe pet food and sound policies," said Dana Brooks, president and chief executive officer.
Employees of the organization work with policymakers in the United States and abroad to advocate for safe, science-based solutions to pet health issues, as well as ongoing international trade. The organization has become increasingly involved with national, consumer and trade media agendas as the pet food and treat market continues to grow.
Over the last 10 years, PFI’s regulatory agenda has been largely centered around the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a “prevention-focused safety approach” to food production, including stringent requirements for animal food safety. In addition, PFI supports funding for the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) training and education initiatives for state-run agencies and inspectors.
The organization also advocates for funding for the FDA’s animal food and health committees, including its Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). As part of its agenda to represent pet food manufacturers, funding the CVM means expediting the tedious process of approving new ingredients for use in feed and pet food, which is important to PFI and its members.
PFI has been at the forefront of many lobbying efforts with the other agricultural trade organizations, most recently urging Congress to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to stimulate pet food exports throughout North America. Another example of the organization’s ongoing involvement with the pet food and related industries is its partnership with the National Renderers Association to co-fund two university research projects on the surveillance and mitigation of Salmonella in rendered products via the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation. The organization also supports pet health and industry-wide transparency for pet food and treat consumers, as the organization reaches two-thirds of pet-owning households in the United States, which, includes policy-makers and regulators.
American Feed Industry Association
The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) is a key organization representing pet food and animal feed producers on legislation, regulation and international trade. It represents companies at all points of the pet food industry, including ingredient suppliers, manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and even direct-to-consumer businesses.
AFIA hosts educational programs, training sessions and pet food-focused events, including the annual Pet Food Conference at the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE). The conference draws several hundred industry professionals each year. The organization also has a Pet Food Committee comprised of industry members, which is tasked with identifying and addressing issues that impact all aspects of pet food production. Members of the committee receive updates on relevant issues and provide feedback to AFIA on its policy positions.
“AFIA’s policies and priorities are member driven. Our committees set plans of action for the year and the AFIA Board of Directors approves the broad legislative and regulatory priorities," said Leah Wilkinson, vice president of public policy and education.
The AFIA Pet Food Committee is approaching food safety as a non-competitive issue in the industry and has been urging processors, suppliers and equipment manufacturers to work together on improving the industry as a whole. They have since begun sharing food safety plans, establishing best practices and even a certification program, FSC 32, which is offered by the Safe Quality Food Institute and is one of the only certifications benchmarked on a global scale for pet food production.
AFIA represents pet food manufacturers, but also offers training programs and professional development opportunities to help educate the industry. For example, the organization hosts the AFIA Feed Industry Institute, a biennial training course for new employees in the animal food industry, as well as a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) training course with online resources.
One of the organization’s top priorities for 2019 and 2020 is educating pet food processors about FSMA inspections and expectations for compliance. Other priorities include trade, ingredient approvals and mitigating the risks of foreign animal diseases, such as African Swine Fever, from being transmitted by feed and ingredients. These priorities are driven by AFIA’s members and the breaking issues at hand, which are approved by the organization’s board of directors annually.
The organization works with AAFCO and its committees to advise on pet food ingredient issues and regulatory policy. Officials from the two organizations have met annually to discuss these topics for more than 100 years. Additionally, AFIA oversees the Institute for Feed Education and Research, IFEEDER for short, which is a research and consumer outreach public charity that celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019.
Overall, the organization has nearly 700 members with facilities in the United States and globally. Approximately 35% of its membership is ingredient suppliers, followed by animal feed and pet food manufacturers at 32% of membership, with supporting industry members making up the remaining 33%.
National Grain and Feed Association
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) represents more than 1,050 companies that collectively operate more than 7,000 facilities and handle over 70% of all grain and oilseed utilized in the United States and export markets. This includes both private and cooperatively owned businesses in grain, feed, processing, exporting and other grain-related sectors.
NGFA’s membership includes grain elevators, feed and feed ingredient manufacturers, grain and oilseed processors and millers, livestock and poultry integrators and many others in the agricultural community. The organization focuses on enhancing growth and economic performance of United States agriculture as a whole by lobbying regulatory agencies for safe, affordable, sustainable and robust trade to improve the quality and food safety of animal food. Overall, the association advocates for grain, feed and animal food issues, including safety, trade, state and federal policy, biotechnology and transportation.
The association is an industry leader for these policy issues and also provides resources on food safety, industry-wide communication and professional development. Each year, NGFA sponsors training events to enhance food safety and compliance, transportation best practices, trade rules and dispute resolution, risk management and quality assurance programs, to name a few. Additionally, NGFA manages an Arbitration System, where industry members can settle trade and rail disputes without going to court. NGFA’s website includes several FSMA resources, including exemptions, guidance documents and an online hazard assessment for the animal food rule, as well as webinars, frequently asked questions and answers.
“This annual collaboration between the feed and pet food sectors allows our industries to communicate with regulators, our suppliers and each other,” said David Fairfield, senior vice president of feed services.
The association's 2019 priorities include advocating for the ratification of the USMCA and other beneficial trade agreements; addressing unfair charges by Class I rail carriers in the United States; driving continuous improvement of workplace safety and health; and keeping companies informed about the FDA implementation of FSMA inspections.
NGFA maintains strategic alliances with PFI, as well as the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA). It’s partnership with PFI is based on public policy, issues management, communications about pet food and feed and education programs to benefit members of those industries. Additionally, NGFA works with 29 state and regional grain and feed associations.
Association of American Feed Control Officials
When discussing pet food ingredients and regulatory deliberations surrounding those ingredients, the AAFCO will almost always be mentioned in the conversation. AAFCO’s members differ from other pet food and treat industry organizations because its membership is limited to state and federal regulatory agencies and officials for animal food.
The main goals of the association are to encourage professional development, cooperation and communication among regulatory agencies and personnel, and support the use of technology and research by regulatory agencies.
AAFCO offers valuable resources to pet food processors, including an annually updated Official Publication, a collection of definitions for all pet food ingredients approved for use in the United States since 1934. In February 2019, the association unveiled an online version called the Online Database of Ingredients (ODI) to provide the most up-to-date information on animal food ingredients to processors and suppliers. These two resources can be found on AAFCO’s Feed Basic Information Network (BIN). AAFCO also provides contact information for each state’s regulatory agency for animal food through an interactive digital map.
“[AFFCO’s Online Database of Ingredients] helps align the nomenclature that’s used in a company, in the industry, with the regulatory world and with labeling,” said Susan Hays, executive director.
The association’s top priorities for 2019 and 2020 are to achieve FSMA education at the state level so processors operating in multiple states can maintain compliance; develop modernized pet food label components, including the nutrition facts, ingredient lists, safe-handling instructions and nutritional adequacy; continue a smooth flow of interstate commerce and trade, especially amid the rise of hemp as an ingredient in pet products; and provide international outreach to the global feed community.
Other pet food and treat industry organizations, including the AFIA, PFI and NGFA, work closely with AAFCO to bring diverse market perspectives and experiences to the table.
Aside from mitigating ingredient regulations, AAFCO coordinates its model regulations with food safety issues in mind. For example, the organization helped update the Model Bill and Regulations on a state-by-state basis, ensuring FSMA-compliant language is used throughout and that states enforce uniform regulations to aid interstate commerce. It also hosts training sessions and meetings on food safety issues, such as naturally occurring contaminants in pet food and treat products that could impact the pet and pet owner populations.
Although AAFCO does not directly represent pet food and treat manufacturers, the association works in the spirit of collaboration to bring states and industry organizations together, encouraging processors to network with state and federal regulatory officials, attend AAFCO meetings to learn more about issues affecting the industry, and participate in trainings.
Pet Food Alliance
Pet Food Alliance (PFA) was started nearly two years ago at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colorado. Since then, individuals representing various sectors of the pet food and rendering industries have met twice a year to collaborate on some of the challenges and opportunities they see for these industries.
“It was a natural connection for the rendering industry and the pet food industry to join forces to get better and they’ve done that quite successfully during the past two years through PFA," said Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor, Colorado State University.
PFA was established on five key pillars: a focus on uniting members of the pet food and rendering industries; engagement with and encouragement of widespread participation from additional industry members; facilitating research guided by industry input to address real-world challenges; establishing multidisciplinary collaborations with academia and industry; and proactively building industry sustainability through all its initiatives.
This alliance for research and innovation in the pet food and rendering industries started with around 30 members and has grown to more than 100. One of the fundamental components of PFA is to not only combine members of the pet food industry and the rendering industry but combine efforts with the academic communities that have interests in these industries as well. PFA has been funded in large part by the Fats and Protein Research Foundation, whose mission is to fund research that helps ensure a strong future for the rendering industry and its industry partners.
Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor, Center for Meat Safety and Quality, Department of Animal Sciences at CSU, says there were two pivotal ideas that led to the development of PFA: research should be guided by industry input to develop implementable solutions, and all players should be at the table.
Currently the PFA working groups are addressing three concerns: oxidation and product quality; Salmonella and product safety; and consumer perception and sustainability of the pet food and rendering industries. This collaborative effort focused on the betterment of the pet food and rendering industries continues to grow and gain momentum.
American Pet Products Association
As a leading trade group in the broader pet industry, the American Pet Product Association (APPA) has more than 1,300 members that include pet product manufacturers, their representatives, importers and livestock suppliers. Since 1988, the association has published the biennial APPA National Pet Owner’s Survey, which is a comprehensive research study of the demographics and buying habits of pet owners providing data on consumer behavior, product and service consumption and lifestyle and media habits.
Annually, APPA presents the Global Pet Expo in partnership with Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA). This premier industry event takes place in Orlando, Florida and draws qualified pet product buyers representing more than 80 countries. APPA works to grow and support the industry through additional initiatives including Pets Add Life (PAL), the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), the Pet Leadership Council (PLC), the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), Bird Enjoyment and Advantage Koalition (BEAK) and the Pet Care Trust.
World Pet Association
As a mission-based association, the World Pet Association (WPA) focuses its efforts around four key pillars: producing world-class trade and consumer events; providing industry action and leadership; supporting retail with business services and value-added resources; and giving back through community good works.
August 2019 marked the organization's 70th anniversary and a brand refresh for WPA, which included new service offerings and a library of retailer tools to serve as year-round resources. The offerings include data-driven reports, customized information, online education and one-on-one consulting for retailers.
WPA works to move the industry forward by uniting it through large pet retail conferences, such as SuperZoo, which occurs annually in Las Vegas. Additionally, the organization hosts consumer pet and pet product expositions. Through WPA’s Good Works program, proceeds from these events are funneled back into key industry organizations and nonprofits with the goal of making it easier for pet industry professionals to do business.
Food Processing Suppliers Association
The Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA) is a horizontal organization whose more than 400 members provide manufacturing solutions to the global food, beverage, meat and pet food industries. The association’s programs and services assist its members in marketing their products and services, and in improving their business practices whether it be for processing, packaging or food safety.
Pet food is making its mark at FPSA. The association launched its Pet Food Council in 2018 and already it is the largest of the association’s six industry councils, thanks to the growth of the market and the tremendous opportunity that FPSA members see in this segment.
FPSA hosts multiple events including an annual conference, a fall sales conference and PROCESS EXPO. This biennial expo offers multiple opportunities for pet food manufacturers to discover new processing technologies for their operations. Approximately 200 of the more than 500 exhibitors are currently serving the pet food industry. In addition to providing members with networking, marketing and educational opportunities, FPSA works to ensure the future of the industry through charitable contributions and educational scholarships.
Bakery Equipment Manufacturers & Allieds
As an international, not-for-profit trade association representing leading bakery and food suppliers, Bakery Equipment Manufacturers and Allieds (BEMA) focuses specifically on furthering the professional, technological, educational, safety and sanitation practices within the bakery and food manufacturing industries. The association represents equipment manufacturers, companies that provide ingredients, packaging materials and vehicles, and service providers including publishers, consultants, installers and financial services.
BEMA is dedicated to furthering the professional success of its members with networking opportunities, events, scholarships and educational opportunities annually. The organization included a pet food panel discussion as part of its programming at the 2019 BEMA Convention in Vail, Colorado.
In conjunction with the American Bakers Association and Retail Bakers of America, BEMA sponsors the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) every three years. IBIE provides an important forum for connecting bakers with suppliers, showcasing innovations and exchanging professional knowledge. Proceeds from the show are invested back into the grain-based food industry.
Read more about associations and agencies in the pet food business.