Panel discussion: Science vs. marketing: what’s driving pet food product development?

Pet food is a consumer goods business, largely driven by consumer needs and demands, as well as other market factors. It is also the sole source of nutrition for our companion animals, so prevailing science about their nutritional needs is key. Different pet food companies interpret and apply known science and research to their product development and marketing in different ways; that is one important factor in achieving a competitive advantage. Yet such differences can sometimes cause consumer or retailer confusion, not to mention tensions between various functions within a company. This panel will address different approaches and factors in balancing pet nutrition science with marketplace demands to help you consider and understand possible new ways to achieve the right balance within your own organization and enhance your marketplace success.

Panel members:

Jeff Alix, global marketing manager with DSM Nutritional Products

Serge Boutet, agrologist and animal nutrition expert at SB Nutrinnov Consultants

Jeff Johnston, senior vice president, research, innovation and product development, for Champion Petfoods

Brent Mayabb, DVM, chief veterinary officer and vice president of corporate affairs for Royal Canin

Nicolas Nolf, president and founder of Atavik pet food company.

Panelist bios:

Alix is the global pet nutrition marketing manager for DSM Nutritional Products. His career in the pet food industry spans more than 35 years. After receiving his degree in chemistry from California State University, Northridge, Alix has gained experience across a wide array of functional disciplines including ingredient and food science, flavor chemistry, sales and marketing. He was a research scientist at Nestlé Petcare for 10 years, technical support and product development manager at Bioproducts (acquired by AFB International) for eight years, and during the last 18 years held positions in sales, business development and marketing for DSM Nutritional Products. He is currently responsible for growing DSM’s pet food business by managing B2B and B2C world-wide marketing activities related to the pet industry. For this talk, Alix represents the DSM Evonik joint venture business, Veramaris. He lives in the U.S. with his wife and has five children ranging from 15 to 31 years old.

Boutet is founder and owner of SB Nutrinnov Consultants, based in Quebec, Canada. He is a McGill University graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and completion of an executive development course (mini-MBA). Through his 34-year career in animal nutrition, including the last 28 years in the pet food industry, his expertise in nutrition covers pet food and feed formulation, knowledge of ingredients, product development, technical training and lecturing, quality control, export, sales, retail, operations and supply chain management, warehousing, transportation and logistics strategies. Boutet started his consulting company in 2013, after serving as manager of pet foods and nutrition for J.E. Mondou Ltee (the largest pet product retail chain in Quebec, Canada) for more than eight years, plus 13 years as the technical services manager for Rolf C. Hagen Inc. and Hagen Pet Foods Inc. He also had previous roles with Ralston Purina Canada (Chow Division) and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Johnston is senior vice president of research, innovation and product development for Champion Petfoods. Johnston’s nearly two decades with Champion began with Champion Feed Services Ltd., the original parent company of Champion Petfoods. In his current role, Johnston oversees product development and is involved in planning future product strategy in partnership with Champion’s marketing leadership. He’s initiated new design thinking processes within the innovation group to ensure rapid innovation prototyping and iterative thinking; and oversees Champion’s comprehensive research portfolio. Johnston is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program Strategy: Building and Sustaining Competitive Advantage, and earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Alberta, concentrating in animal science and nutrition.

Mayabb is a veterinarian with both private practice and veterinary industry experience. He currently serves as the vice president of corporate affairs and chief veterinary officer for Royal Canin USA. Mayabb manages a team that builds relationships with pet owners, veterinarians, veterinary specialists, regulators, government officials and non-profits to share knowledge and build the company’s reputation as thought leaders. He also serves as the veterinary voice for the U.S. business and represents the company in both internal and external forums on pet health and nutrition. Mayabb is one of Royal Canin’s official spokespeople and works directly with various groups in the animal health industry to bring our point-of-view to relevant topics. Prior to this role, he served as a technical service veterinarian, technical service team lead and manager of learning and development for Royal Canin. Prior to joining Mars, Mayabb worked in a small animal practice in Granite City, Illinois. He continues to do relief work in a small animal practice in St. Louis, Missouri, and is also an event volunteer at the Animal Protective Association of Missouri. Mayabb graduated from Murray State University with a degree in chemistry and earned his DVM from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. Mayabb and his wife, Julie (also a vet) have a cat named Tessa and dog named Eli.

Nolf bio coming soon.