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Nordic Pet Food Conference

October 23, 2023 Dan Su, MS, DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition), Heidi Wilson, MBA

The Nordic Pet Food Conference, one of the best-attended annual technical networking events in the European pet food industry, held its 9th annual meeting from September 25-27, 2023. The conference attracted a diverse group of participants, including manufacturers, suppliers, service providers, and academics. It was a great opportunity for the approximately 230 participants to learn from each other and network.

The conference takes place in a different location each year, and this year the event was held in the Danish port city of Aalborg. Aalborg is Denmark’s fourth-largest city and its location at the narrowest point of the Limfjord made it an important harbor and large industrial center. Nowadays, the city has transitioned from an industrial center to an innovation hub, but its historic architectural style can still be seen mixed in with more contemporary buildings.

The conference commenced with an afternoon session on dry pet food processing, with the subsequent two days being full-day events on technical presentations, exhibitions, and ample networking opportunities. Attendees were kept well-nourished and energized with meals and refreshments throughout the event. Pet food sustainability and environmental impact were the focus of the conference, with technical presentations and exhibitors focusing on insect and plant-based proteins, algal DHA, sustainability of raw pet food, sustainable packaging, and even microbial fermentation proteins that use no arable land, plant, or animal products. It was clear that the industry is heeding the growing consumer demand for sustainability.

Presentations from a veterinary perspective focused on how the industry can help with concerns of extending the “health span” (amount of time that pets remain healthy) by appropriate puppy feeding and aiding with chronic pain management in companion animals. Ingredients like trace minerals and post-biotics that can support skin and coat health, immune support, and gastrointestinal health, were also very interesting and exciting topics to learn about since they can provide benefits for commonly seen clinical presentations. A great presentation that made an impression was the avian nutrition presentation, where attendees were reminded that by utilizing basic science (anatomy, physiology) and animal behavior observation, we can extrapolate what feeding modalities and nutrient requirements are required for a less well-researched class of animals.

Nordic Pet Conference is a pet food industry conference and not a strictly veterinary or nutrition-focused conference. This makes it very different from meetings generally attended by veterinary nutritionists or residents in training. However, it is important for those in the profession to have exposure to industry trends, new products, and the science behind them. Learning more about the pet food industry from different perspectives will allow veterinary professionals to be more up-to-date and open-minded about evaluating products, instead of automatically dismissing anything that is new and unfamiliar. The conference was also a great reminder that networking with an open mind, eagerness to learn, and making human connections with people is the most important. While there may not be an immediate payoff in terms of business or career opportunities, making genuine connections may open doors down the road simply because somebody remembered that they enjoyed talking to you.

Pets and Pet Food in Europe

While attending the conference was an important part of the visit, BSM Partners’, Dr. Dan Su and Heidi Wilson, were able to also learn more about the cultural viewpoints of pets and pet food in Europe. The concept of natural pet food is not as prevalent in Europe as it is in the United States. Alternative proteins, such as insects, are widely accepted in Europe for use in pet food as a means to support the importance they place on sustainability. Shopping for pet food in Europe is also a different experience as specialty pet food stores are not very common like in the United States. Most Europeans will shop for pet food at their local market or grocery store. People in Europe view their pets as part of their family, but many don’t identify themselves as “pet parents”, but merely pet owners. We found Europe to be very pet-friendly in public areas and on a few occasions found pets sitting with their owners inside local restaurants and cafes. Europeans enjoy being active, maintaining a good work-life balance, and incorporating their pet(s) into their daily routine.

About the authorsDan Su, MS, DVM, DACVIM (Nutrition) works at BSM Partners as Manager of Nutrition Services. His areas of expertise include nutritional management of dogs and cats, and the culinary arts. As a food and animal enthusiast, Dan loves to give his pets food names. He is the proud owner of a cat named Gravy. 

Heidi Wilson, MBA is the Director of Business Development at BSM Partners and comes with over 12 years of experience within the pet food industry. Before joining BSM Partners, Heidi was focused on pet food product innovation, private label development, and e-commerce execution. She resides in central Texas with her dogs, cats, mini pigs, and goats.

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