Panel discussion: The future of pet food and its consumers

What will the pet food industry and market look like in 10 to 20 years?. You can’t assume the market will be based on the same issues as they are today or take anything for granted. Coping with unprecedented future paradigms will be a challenging constant. New realities will redefine the sets of rules in the industry, such as sustainability of raw materials including ingredients, as well as manufacturing and processing changes or new discoveries in nutrition. In addition, new business models will appear; how might they prove their worth? And, in a global market like pet food that is almost saturated, what impacts will new products, processes, packaging and pets have; will they create new markets? This panel will share their predictions and insights on these questions, plus more.

Panel members:

Marcel Blok, owner and founder of Change Stranamics

Maria Lange, business group director, pet care, for GfK POS Tracking/Nielsen

Paul D. McKeithan, head of digital services for the Buhler Group

Tom R. Willard, Ph.D., founder and owner of TRW Consulting Services

Panelist bios:

Blok has more than 35 years of experience in the pet industry in senior and top positions, including as the founder and first president of Iams International, interim managing director for a food processing company in the Netherlands and as consultant to top U.S. and European industry leaders as well as family-owned companies. He founded Change Stranamics in 1995. With clients in Australia, China, Russia, Europe and Brazil he keeps heavily involved in the industry, including matters ranging from setting up new businesses, designing strategies, establishing strategic alliances and M&A. Blok has a degree from the Rotterdam Business School.

Lange is the business group director, pet care, for GfK POS Tracking/Nielsen. She works with major pet industry clients, including leading manufacturers and retailers, to help them stay a step ahead of changes in the marketplace. She is expert at detecting trends in GfK’s unmatched purchase database representing about 11,000 pet stores (and more than 30,000 veterinarian clinics) nationwide. Her analyses reveal emerging opportunities at the product, category and regional levels. Lange holds a degree in international culture and business studies from Universität Passau (Passau, Germany). She has spoken at multiple leading industry events including Petfood Forum, Global Pet Expo, SuperZoo, PIJAC Canada and PILC (2016).

Willard has spent 45 years in the pet food industry working with and consulting for numerous companies in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia and South America. He is founder and owner of TRW Consulting Services LLC and consults with pet food companies as well as ingredient suppliers in formulating, developing and testing new and innovative ingredients and products. Willard has formulated and developed extruded, canned, freeze dried, dry meals, treats and supplements for dogs, cats, ferrets, racing sled dogs, breeding animals, aquaculture and farm animals. In 2012, Willard shared patent rights for an additive/supplement/binder with research personnel of an international human food company that allows the inclusion of fresh meats into both extruded and baked animal foods and treats at rates of 75 to 100 percent greater than was previously possible. Willard received a bachelor’s degree in animal science and agriculture engineering, a master’s degree in animal science and statistics and a doctorate in biochemistry with emphasis on protein and mineral metabolism, all from NC State University. Willard has worked with WATT Global Media since the 90s at the start of Petfood Forum and has given a number of presentations at the forums over the years. He is also one of the reviewers of papers and presentations for the all of the International and U.S. Pet Food Forums for the past 10 years.

McKeithan is the head of digital services for Bühler Group. As a young man, McKeithan helped his father start a nursery-age pig farm and that entrepreneurial spirit never left. He started his career at Bühler as a mechanical engineer focused on helping food manufacturers optimize their process by creating a new Bühler unit focused on field consulting. He then moved into product management and business development as vice president of the global sales group. Now, McKeithan leads the group to help customers reach sustainable energy saving and reduce waste with digital transformation. This entrepreneurial spirit and change coaching is his true passion, and he enjoys being part of this digital industrial revolution.