We had very few opportunities to leave our booth and therefore any conclusions we draw from the show are necessarily limited.
First, we visited a few pet stores in Nuremberg. We found very few “quality” pet foods. We did visit one specialty store that had a few “quality” brands (what we would consider super premium quality in the US) but the majority of brands are premium and economy quality. This is not surprising to us as Germany still imports very little pet food from the US. According to a market report we commissioned, US- made pet foods account for only 0.25% of all German imported pet foods (about US$ 2 million per year). And while it appears that European producers are improving the quality of pet foods made in the EU, we believe that these statistics represent a huge untapped market for American pet foods. What is missing is education. Why are North American pet foods better than EU-produced pet foods? It is our task to educate importers, distributors, and consumers in the EU so that they can better evaluate pet food quality. (The same is true for Japan.) Perhaps at the next show we should focus more on education and less on brands.
We should add that we are seeing better quality pet foods being produced in the EU. We are judging the “quality” on the ingredients panels on the bags (we know!! – never judge a book by the cover). However, this is a reflection that the European approach to animal nutrition is now more in line with what we see in North America. There also seems to be a very strong focus on Omega 3s and 6s.
And while Europe still is not very welcoming of American-made super premium pet foods, a market for super premium American (and Australian)-made treats seems to be developing. The treats in our booth generated much more interest than the pet foods. This is a change from the past. Specifically, there was quite a bit of interest in Fruitables and Best Mates.
Finally, we felt that attendance was down this year compared with 2008. Specifically, we felt there were many fewer retailers and groomers while the number of importers and distributors remained about the same. This is the same trend we are seeing in shows in the US.