The pet industry gathers at Pet Connections Expo to buy and sell products, pitch and exchange ideas, meet with partners, and so much more. This is a trade-only event for pet professionals.

2022 Agenda Announced Soon!


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

9:15am  How To Get Your Business Back in the Post-Corona World  -  Jim Ackerman

Jim Ackerman, President, Ascend Marketing
During this presentation discover a new paradigm – the direct response paradigm – to revolutionize your marketing for immediate sales and brand-building. Also revealed will be the secrets to make ads more effective at generating RESULTS, regardless of the media; digital or traditional. And you'll discover what elements of advertising have the greatest impact on the target audience no matter how you reach them, the difference between campaigns and promotions and how to make both work for your pet enterprise, and much, much more.

Jim Ackerman is a renowned marketing & advertising speaker, Marketing Coach, author and copywriter, who specializes in direct response and alternative marketing, and in helping businesses “genetically engineer” their sales systems for ever-increasing success. He is a regular contributor to Pets+ online Bulletins with his renowned video series called Animal Ads. He has written material for the likes of Novell, Franklin Covey, and Nature’s Sunshine, HerbaLife, Jafra, Melaleuca, and others. Perhaps Jim’s greatest accomplishments come helping small to medium-size business owners and entrepreneurs dramatically increase sales and profits, and reduce costs through smarter, results-driven marketing and advertising. His Principle-Centered Marketing Coaching™ Program is unparalleled for producing results… often turning companies around in a matter of just a few weeks. President & CEO of Ascend Marketing™, Inc. Founder of The BizKaboom™ Alliance Author/Publisher of The BizKaboom Alliance Newsletter™, National columnist and author of many articles in a broad array of industry publications.

1:15pm  How to Read the Packaging  Ryan Yamka

Ryan Yamka, Co-Founder, COO and EVP R&D, Guardian Pet Food Company
Given the low bar of entry for pet food companies in the marketplace, it can be difficult for both consumers and retailers to determine which food is best for their animal and how to sort through the sea of claims and all the bags with a wolf or lynx on them. In this seminar we will discuss different types of claims including 1) scientific (i.e. “puffery”, structure function, proven, etc.), 2) animal raising and welfare claims, 3) natural claims, 4) organic and non-GMO claims and 5) product naming.

2:00pm  What to Ask When Bringing in New Products  Ryan Yamka and Nicci Cammack

Ryan Yamka, Co-Founder, COO and EVP R&D, Guardian Pet Food Company
Nicci Cammack, Founder, Owner NorthPoint Pets & Company
Customizing product assortment for any retail operation is a challenge and pet retail is no exception. When it comes to determining product quality, nutrition adequacy and what will perform there are several questions to ask manufacturers and distributors to help set you and your customers up for success. We’ll dive deeper into what scientific information is and isn’t available and how to leverage that information in conversations with manufacturers, pet owners and veterinarians. Learn what questions to ask, how to analyze your sales data to make stocking decisions you are confident in, and that will perform well.

Nicci Cammack owns NorthPoint Pets in Cheshire, CT. She has a diverse background and experience including emergency medicine, pharmaceutical research, and functional nutrition. She has completed undergraduate and graduate work, focusing on nutrition’s role in preventing and managing disease. She and her accomplished team utilize their education and background to individualize their approach to everything from stocking their shelves to nutrition plans. NorthPoint is known for doing things differently and she’s looking forward to helping fellow retailers learn some of what has helped to make NorthPoint Pets successful. Ryan Yamka, PhD, is the founder and an independent consultant with Luna Science and Nutrition, and Co-Founder of Guardian Pet Food Company. He is board certified in companion animal nutrition by the American College of Animal Sciences and a fellow with the American College of Nutrition. Yamka calls on his extensive background in pet nutrition, and multiple years developing, formulating and launching dog and cat foods as a senior executive with leading pet food companies, to address common myths and misconceptions about pet food.

3:45pm   Pets' Food Fight  -  Dr. Cathy Alinovi

Dr. Cathy Alinovi, Executive Director, Next Generation Pet Food Manufacturers

Every session that this Pet Connections conference presents an angle of the Pet Food Fight. The fight is on to feed pets real food. The fight is on to provide great nutrition. The fight is on to maintain your sales growth. Here’s more about the pet food fight and what you can do.

Dr Cathy Alinovi is a retired holistic veterinarian who treated 80% of what walked through her door with nutrition. Now, as the executive director of the only trade association to advocate for manufacturers and retailers of real pet food, Next Generation Pet Food Manufacturers, Dr Cathy is helping even more pets.

3:15pm  The Regulation of Pet Food in the US; Why It's Important for Retailers to Understand the Regulatory System in order to Protect your Customers  -  Susan Thixton

Susan Thixton, Pet Food Consumer Advocate Pet food ‘speaks’ a different language than human food. Human food ‘chicken’ and pet food ‘chicken’ are two completely different things. But it’s not just chicken…from manufacturing requirements to enforcement of legal regulations, almost every single detail of pet food is different than that of human food. This presentation will provide an overview of the regulations of pet food that will help you help your customers. Learn about the legal definitions of common pet food ingredients:

  • Discover which laws are enforced and which are not
  • Understand the definition of complete and balanced
  • Is it Feed or is it Food? What is ‘Real Chicken’? How balanced is “Complete and Balanced?”

11:15am  What Pet Owners Want: New Research Reveals Consumer Desires for Retail's Future  Jane Harrell

Jane Harrell, President, 'cause Digital Marketing Join Jane, to learn about new data in the company's 10-year research project to better identify how pet companies can connect to pet parents - and what the findings specifically say about pet retail and supplies. Find out what consumers say they want from a pet supply provider, and how you stack up against hundreds of audited providers in how you meet these needs.

8:00am  Log in for the conference sessions to review the platform and visit our exhibit showcase

10:15am Why do we Buy? Veterinary Secrets for Healthy Customer Loyalty; Dr. Barbara Royal, The Royal Treatement Veterinary Center

Dr. Barbara Royal is the founder and owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center in Chicago, past president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) and of the AHVM Foundation, and a co-founder of the Royal Animal Health University (RAHU). Dr. Royal is an internationally renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and physical rehabilitation. She was the first veterinarian in the world to perform acupuncture on a zebra, and has worked with wildlife, zoo animals and pets. She is known as a passionate advocate of common sense and cutting-edge approaches to animal health. Dr. Royal provides a bridge between Western and Eastern medicine for her clients that include pet parents in her local community as well as for high profile and celebrity pet owners. She has studied and uses many integrative and holistic modalities, including Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, advanced herbal medicine, physical rehabilitation and homeopathy. She lectures around the globe, is widely published, and has been regularly featured in the media and in film documentaries for her groundbreaking work. Her engaging first book, The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets, has been used as a textbook for integrative vet courses and is widely available. She teaches about all aspects of practical integrative veterinary medicine through RAHU, and is an adjunct professor at California Polytechnic State University. She lives and works with her family and various wildly healthy pets in Chicago and on their organic farm in Michigan. Dr Royal is also the Vet for Oprah Winfrey!

11:45am  Live Q&A Period with Jim, Barbara and Jane

Bring your questions for the first three presenters to answer live!

4:15pm  Live Q&A with Susan Thixton and Dr. Cathy Alinovi

Join us for Q&A with Susan Thixton and Dr Cathy Alinovi

8:30am  Meet and Greet

Meet and greet your colleagues in the pets industry!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

2:30pm  The Art of Working with a Distributor  Nicci Cammack

Nicci Cammack, Founder, Owner NorthPoint Pets & Company

Managing distributor relationships can be daunting for any size pet retailer. We’ll explore the dynamics of price negotiation, leveraging inside/outsides sales support, and how to build relationships that benefit all parties. Communication and respect are keys for defining sales goals, reducing errors and managing overall expectations on both sides. Leave ere with clear strategy for implementing fresh ideas to improve ordering efficiency, negotiation & communication.

10:15am  The Most Powerful Marketing Principle on the Planet & How to Use it to Clobber Your Competition, Large or Small  Jim Ackerman

Jim Ackerman, President, Ascend Marketing This is the single principle that enabled Dominoes to dominate the pizza delivery world; that enabled FedEx to build not just a business, but an entire industry; that has Dinovite giving you nightmares… and that can enable YOU to give all of your competition nightmares. It's called The Unique Purchase Appeal. Yours could be organic or a contrived matter of perception, but if you have one, you'll attract just the customers you're looking for at the expense of competitors. If you don't have one, you're doomed to struggle on the battlefield of mediocrity your entire career. Discover this most powerful marketing principle on earth and how to "get one" for your own business.

1:30pm  Raw Food Nutrition Roundtable

Ryan Yamka, Co-Founder, COO and EVP R&D, Guardian Pet Food Company
Nicci Cammack, Founder, Owner NorthPoint Pets & Company
BC Henschen, BC Henschen, Retailer, Platinum Pets
Barbara Royal, Founder, The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center
Sit down with leading scientists, formulators, veterinarians and retailers to discuss the current application of raw food in veterinary medicine and retail. Learn how they have utilized the strengths this category offers, and how they manage its associated risks (i.e. pathogens). Discussion will focus on “how-to” get started and manage common issues but also center around what retailers can do to improve the processes and quality of raw food manufactures and what knowledge and research gaps need to be addressed.

9:30am Three Pillars to a Thriving Business  Candace D'Agnolo

Candace D'Agnolo, Founder, Pet Boss Nation Discover the three pillars of what make pet businesses across the country successful (it’s really the foundation that holds the rest of the house up). Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pet pro, when you focus on these pillars, it will help you get clear on where your opportunities are, help you build relationships critical to your success and will make you, the leader and visionary of your company, stronger. We all want quick fixes, but empires aren’t built overnight! Take these concepts seriously and you’ll be on your way to building YOUR empire!

3:15pm  Diet-Associated Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) with Grain free foods: Truth or Fiction?  Ryan Yamka

Ryan Yamka, Co-Founder, COO and EVP R&D, Guardian Pet Food Company Canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has been a hot topic in the pet food industry, the veterinary community, the press and among pet owners. Although there may be a potential association, there is no proven direct link (i.e. cause and effect) to grain-free foods (both over the counter or therapeutic) to cause DCM in dogs. In fact, the update provided by the FDA June 27, 2019 stated that they did not identify a direct link of BEG foods to DCM. The FDA is continuing to investigate and gather more information to identify if there is truly a specific dietary link to development of DCM and will provide updates to the public as information develops. In the meantime, we need to be able to communicate what data is available to date (or lack there of) so retailers can have open conversations with both consumers and veterinarians. This way the industry can focus on facts to mitigate and reduce any fears in the marketplace. In this seminar we will dive deep into topics including 1) how and why did grain-free foods get associated with DCM, 2) what data led to the FDA investigation in grain-free foods and DCM 3) what data and conclusions has the FDA drawn from their investigation and 4) how to recommend foods in the shadow of DCM.

11:30am  Hemp & CBD for Animals: History, Status & What You Should Know

Bill Bookout, President, National Animal Supplement Council

Products containing hemp and CBD are the hottest in the industry right now, with new product announcements hitting our news feeds daily. But significant misunderstanding exists around the status of these types of products, as well as risk assumed by both the supplier and the retailer. This presentation provides an overview of the landscape since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, and a status update on this dynamic and inconsistent business and regulatory environment. Should you get in now? Should you wait? What are the risks, what does the future look like, and how can you help?

Bill Bookout is president of the National Animal Supplement Council and a leading industry voice for animal supplements, including cannabis and cannabis derivative products. Mr. Bookout holds a BS in physical sciences from University of Wyoming and an MBA from the Pepperdine University Presidents and Key Executives MBA program. He was selected in 2017 for a Colorado Department of Agriculture committee exploring viable pathways for inclusion of hemp in animal feed. He testified in May 2019 at the FDA’s public hearing on CBD. Mr. Bookout currently leads NASC’s efforts to define responsible and viable pathways forward for these products in a very rapidly growing and dynamic environment.

11:00am  Live Q&A Discussion Period with Candace and Jim

Bring your questions for this live Q&A period for our first two speakers of the day!

12:00pm  Live Q&A with Bill Bookout

Bring your CBD and supplement questions for Bill Bookout!

3:45pm  Live Q&A with Nicci and Ryan

Brng your questions for an interactive discussion with Nicci and Ryan!

9:00am Meet and Greet

Come meet and greet your colleagues in the pet industry!