Petfood Forum recently spoke with Dr. Gail Kuhlman, technical fellow, research and development, of MARS Petcare NA, to learn about her experiences networking with pet food professionals and learning about the latest industry trends during the annual event.
Petfood Forum: What is your earliest memory of Petfood Forum, and what role did you have in the industry at that point?
Dr. Kuhlman: I believe, at the time the first Petfood Forum was held, I was the director of technical services at Royal Canin USA. I had been in the industry for several years, and as an outcome of my role, knew many folks within the industry — colleagues, suppliers and peers. The early forums were fairly small and held at the Rosemont in Chicago.
Amongst my greatest memories include the connectivity between folks and the personal role I played introducing “younger” scientists to others within the industry (relationships that would last throughout folks’ careers), and the learning that took place during the introductions.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention a particular dart game that took place in the sports bar at the Hyatt one evening after all the sessions had concluded, in which I became quite competitive and played until 3 a.m. This drew quite the crowd, and I believe at that time I met people I had not known prior.
Petfood Forum: What do you consider the biggest challenge or opportunity ahead for the pet food industry?
Dr. Kuhlman: Overall, I would categorize our biggest challenge to be one of “raw material” opportunities. This is a multifaceted challenge. Not only do I feel we will continue to have sourcing and logistic challenges, we will face challenges as we continue to work to meet our consumers’ desire for humanization, and challenges in meeting our increasingly stringent quality guidelines as we continue to learn and improve our raw material selection for pets. In addition, ensuring sustainability of our food supply and respecting our natural resources (air, water, land, etc.) only adds to this challenge.
Petfood Forum: Why do you continue to attend Petfood Forum, and why should pet food industry professionals join us?
Dr. Kuhlman: Petfood Forum continues to be one of the largest forums enabling folks working within our industry to come together and share. Manufacturers, suppliers, food scientists, nutritionists, veterinarians, university professors, etc., have the opportunity to come together and connect both formally and informally and discuss pet food related topics. The education experience is phenomenal, whether it is your first time and you are eager to make connections and learn new insights and about new raw materials, or if you have attended multiple times previously and are revisiting with familiar connections for updates and knowledge sharing. For me personally, the Petfood Forum allows me to spend two or three intensive days meeting with all my colleagues and suppliers for face-to-face business meetings while only having to make one trip.
Petfood Forum: What’s your recommendation for Kansas City fun during Petfood Forum in May?
Dr. Kuhlman: Some of my favorites year-after-year include Bristol Seafood, Providence (located in the Hilton President Hotel), and after dinner one can go have a tasty craft cocktail in Drum Room at the same location, The Majestic and 801 Chop House for good steaks, and Drunken Fish for sushi and sake. The convention center is also located fairly close to Boulevard Brewery Company. If you find yourself with some free time, potentially after the final speaker, the brewery tours and tastings are magnificent.
About Petfood Forum
The 2022 edition of Petfood Forum is scheduled for May 2-4 at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Petfood Forum includes an agenda packed with opportunities to network and collaborate with industry professionals, learn the latest in pet food innovation and discover new tools for business success.
Register here to make history at the 30th annual Petfood Forum.