LAS VEGAS — The World Pet Association (WPA) hosted a successful, in-person SuperZoo 2021 trade show for the pet industry from Aug. 16 to 19 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, bringing together more than 7,160 pet retailers, buyers, groomers and product manufacturers to learn, connect and conduct business face-to-face following more than a year of largely virtual events and meetings.

“It was a pleasure to celebrate the pet industry and its professionals at SuperZoo 2021 for four days of product discovery, learning and networking,” said Vic Mason, president of WPA. “For more than 70 years, SuperZoo has earned a reputation as the industry’s most productive and vibrant show, and we were honored to have the opportunity to safely bring our industry back together again at North America’s only in-person industry gathering this year.

“With two years’ worth of new products on display, friends and colleagues to reconnect with and unmatched educational programming, it is apparent that our industry is resilient as we continue to see unprecedented demand and growth for pet products and services.”

SuperZoo 2021 spanned 200,000 square feet to accommodate 735 exhibitors, which collectively debuted 700 products in the New Product Showcase and Innovation Incubator segments of  the show. Winners of the New Product Showcase — which included several pet food and treat brands — were chosen by a panel of five industry experts in eight categories.

In the Luxury Lifestyle category, Bonne et Filou took the grand prize with its Handmade All-Natural Dog Macarons. In the Retail Shelf Appeal category, Treat Planet won with its Snicky Snaks Poppers Dog Treats. Himalayan Dog Chew, LLC, took first place in the Humanized Pet Product category with its treat-inclusive Advent Calendar, and Stashios’ Wrap-Ups Bacon Flavor Pliable Pill Wrappers won in the Health and Wellness category.

Shameless Pets won gold in the Sustainable Pet Product category for its Dental Sticks and Calming Treats made from upcycled ingredients, and Jiminy’s Cricket Crave and Good Grub complete-and-balanced dog food formulas, which are formulated with insects as the main source of protein, received first place in the New-to-Market Pet Food & Treats category.

Overall, Nestlé Purina Petcare’s Pro Plan Live Clear allergen-inhibiting cat food for kittens was named the best new-to-market pet product for 2020.

Additionally, WPA facilitated a new-and-improved educational lineup with two tracts, each specifically geared for retailers or groomers. Overall, this included more than 70 sessions on and off the show floor covering a wide range of topics, including business tips and strategies, wellness trends driving the industry, fostering diversity and inclusion in the industry, and CBD-related research, to name a few.


Sentiments from the show floor

There was a mask mandate in effect at SuperZoo 2021, regardless of vaccination status, as show organizers followed local guidance issued by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak for indoor events. While continued COVID-19 concerns did result in a smaller-than-usual trade show, the brands that did attend reported positive experiences. Several pet food and treat companies shared their SuperZoo sentiments with Pet Food Processing, signaling quality over quantity made it well worthwhile.

"This year's show gave more opportunity to have in-depth discussions with our customers and potential new customers, and renewed enthusiasm throughout the industry from personal connection and idea exchange," said Chelsea Sher of Evanger's Dog & Cat Food Co.

“SuperZoo 2021 far exceeded our expectations,” said Chelsea Sher, vice president of sales and marketing at Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co. “Quality over quantity, this year's show gave more opportunity to have in-depth discussions with our customers and potential new customers, and renewed enthusiasm throughout the industry from personal connection and idea exchange. It was a great show for Evanger's in particular, by not only securing several major customers we would have normally not had time to meet with, but also SuperZoo gave us time to share next level partnership programs beyond our foods and treats such as our marketing, support and sell-through strategies to drive more turns and more sales at the register.”

Phelps Pet Products shared similar sentiments.

“We found the ‘quality’ of the dialogue was better than previous years,” said Rick Ruffolo, chief executive officer and president of Phelps Pet Products. “Maybe because there were a few less exhibitors and attendees, it seemed we were able to have more conversations that were less ‘rushed’ and resulted in clearer decisions and action steps. We also found that most everyone respected the pragmatic approach to COVID concerns by wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, fewer handshakes, etc. While not ideal, those small steps were an easy concession in order to allow the in-person experience to happen.”

Stephen Smith, president and co-founder of Pet Releaf, a company focused on CBD-infused pet wellness products, agreed.

“With less attending all around, it gave us the opportunity to have longer, detailed conversations,” they said. “We find that when addressing CBD, it’s really helpful to provide a little education on the category while also explaining our seed-to-sale process, our certifications and what those mean, as well as the training and support we can offer our partners.”

Ruffolo also shared being in-person helped Phelps Pet Products foster more meaningful conversations with interested buyers, specifically for its newest products.

“With 2020-21 being somewhat of a ‘lost year’ in terms of evolving planogram assortments, we found buyers were highly motivated to bring new innovative brands (e.g.  Disney Table Scraps) and new trends (e.g. 100% Plant-Based, Upcycled, Super Foods, etc.) to their shoppers,” he said. “Innovation is critical to the growth of any category, and the pet business absolutely thrives on newness to help drive customer engagement. We think that is one of the key reasons why the Disney Table Scraps line was so well-received.”

The company first announced its licensing partnership with Disney and Table Scraps dog treat line at Global Pet Expo in March, but reported SuperZoo was “the first time retailers could see, touch and smell this innovative line,” making it “a magical show” for Phelps Pet Products, Ruffolo shared.

Additionally, as the pet retail space was forced to adapt to a changing point-of-sale landscape throughout the pandemic and beyond it, brands dedicated to the independent pet channel found the opportunity to meet with their retail partners in-person was invaluable.

“So many of our independent customers had to pivot and evolve their business, so we appreciated the opportunity for them to share those details with us so we can learn where their business is at and how we can work together more strongly,” Sher said. “We also benefited from time to exchange strategic solutions and tools that we can do to help drive more revenue to their new businesses.”

The overall sentiment among pet industry professionals at SuperZoo 2021 was enthusiasm for being able to meet face-to-face again.

“It felt GREAT to be able to interact with people in person,” Ruffolo said. “Catching up with colleagues and meeting new people for the first time in over a year was one of the best aspects of the show. Even though we all wore masks – being able to have 'face-to-face' conversations was energizing and made for much richer discussions. While virtual meetings have been necessary and have become a very effective means of communication – nothing can replace the collaborative dialogue that you get from an in-person experience where you can engage directly with the product, packaging, merchandising, etc.”

Smith added, “In-person meetings in a neutral space is everything you can ask for. It’s a perfect environment for retailers to openly check out brands they have an interest in. We don’t have to interrupt their customer interactions and we can solely focus on getting to know them — not only as retailers, but other pet-loving humans. It’s amazing to have the opportunity build on those relationships and get to know them!”


New products

Phelps Pet Products and Evanger’s were two of many pet food and treat-focused brands that introduced new products at SuperZoo 2021. Established companies, startups and everyone in between took the opportunity to share their latest and greatest, including products that meet market demand for emerging formats, protein alternatives, functional formulations, convenience and otherwise premium offerings.

Because, Animals debuted its first 100% cultured meat pet treat product, Harmless Hunt Mouse Cookies for Cats. The company has been working on creating real meat without the use of any real animal ingredients — including fetal bovine serum — in the lab since 2019, and plans to create a complete-and-balanced cultured meat cat food next before expanding the line to dogs.

WellPet, LLC, introduced two new products at the show: a wet cat food variety pack specifically for kittens, as well as a value pack of WHIMZEES dental chews for dogs.

Treatibles, a hemp-based pet supplement company, launched its first-ever non-CBD products during the show, including Probiotic Soft Chewables for dogs and Mobility Pill Wrap Chewables for cats. The company also unveiled an extra-strength line of CBD-infused pet supplements for pets needing extra support. This line includes Hard Chews for Dogs with 10 mgs of CBD, Soft Chewables for Dogs with 7 mgs of CBD, and Soft Chewables for Cats with 3 mgs of CBD.

Bocce’s Bakery added limited-ingredient jerky treats to its expanding line of treats and dental chews for dogs. This follows the launch of Bocce’s Bakery Dailies functional treats and Brushy Sticks at Global Pet Expo in March.

Fromm Family Foods introduced its Four-Star Nutritionals Trout & Whitefish Recipe for dogs, a grain-inclusive, complete-and-balanced formula that complements its previously launched and “very well-received” trout and whitefish diet for cats.

Additionally, Snif-Snax entered the US pet market with the launch of two single-ingredient dog treats — Scottish Salmon Jerky and Baked Salmon Skins — and Tuna Bites.

Ahead of the show, Pet Food Processing published a slideshow of more than 50 new pet food and treat products to watch for in the New Product Showcase. Click the button below to browse a selection of new pet nutrition products featured at SuperZoo 2021.

Read more about pet food and treat industry events.