Pet expos are exciting! Expos, festivals, events… whatever you want to call them, they are the ComiCon for companion animal enthusiasts – minus the costumes (unfortunately).
Easter weekend, thousands of dog, cat, rodent, bird, reptile and fish fans crowded into the International Centre near the Toronto airport in Mississauga, Ontario to get up close and personal with vendors, breeders, performers and even a few furry celebrities at the Canadian Pet Expo, now a semi-annual event.
Organizers worked out the line-up issues from last year, expanded the space to accommodate simultaneous demos, added artisans, and reduced the reptile presence.
But it’s still all about the vendors. So many vendors.
Shows this size are industry showcases.
So what’s the prevailing trend in the Canadian pet world this year?
Made in Canada. Sourced in Canada. Locally sourced ingredients.
There were more Canadian flags and red maple leafs on booths and bags than you’ll see in an afternoon strolling Ottawa.
New pet food brands are springing up all over the country, with each claiming different health advantages, and many boasting a ‘made in Canada’ benefit. Foreign-sourced ingredients are still rightfully suspect. Building up consumer confidence is taking decades, but opening doors for innovative independent manufacturers and suppliers.
For instance, Horizon pet food is family-owned and operated in Rothern, Saskatchewan in the heart of the Canadian agricultural belt. Able to take advantage of produce and meats close by, the company operates its own manufacturing plant, and uses low cooking temperatures to produce dog and cat kibble free from GMOs, by products, and chemical preservatives.
Similarly, Legacy Value Tradition is also made from locally sourced Canadian ingredients but in a manufacturing facility in Kitchener, Ontario by Spectrum Feed Services. The company follows the 100 km rule, and adds glucosamine and omega 3 for added joint benefits to some lines.
Brought to us from Hagen Inc., a Montreal company that owns many subsidiaries, is ZOË, a hip brand meaning life in Greek. The key to its dog and cat kibble, wet food and treat formulas is simple ingredients: one protein such as turkey or chicken combined with ‘super foods’ such as sweet potato, flax seeds, chia seeds blueberry and cranberry. Even quinoa and buckwheat make the list.
Also from Hagen, Nutrience lines are made in small batches at human-grade Canadian manufacturing facilities using ingredients sourced from both Canadian and U.S. suppliers. Nutrience SubZero, for instance, is 100% grain free with freeze dried raw proteins.
Canadian pet pride isn’t just about the food.
Located in affluent Burnaby, British Columbia, Mutt and Moggy recently closed its holistic pet food store to focus on the ‘Mutt Mail’ subscription box business. Each box ($29 for one month, $78 for three, and $138 for six plus $4.50 per box shipping) contains full-sized toys, treats, samples, and coupons. The difference? All food is made in Canada, toys are from Europe and the U.S. and some products are from local B.C. artisans.
What’s more Canadian than Don Cherry?
While not appearing at the expo, the colourful Hockey Night in Canada commentator lent his name to the Don Cherry’s Pet Rescue Foundation. The volunteer-run non-profit provides financial assistance to rescue organizations focusing on recovery, direct care, and placement of abandoned animals. Most funds come from the sale of Simple Pet Dog treats that feature a picture of actual rescue dogs on each package.
Pet Fest Summer Pet Expo is the company’s next event is on June 25 and 26 at Downsview Park in Toronto. The Atlantic Pet Expo in Halifax, Nova Scotia follows on July 16 and 17, 2016.
Stay tuned later this year – dogtrotting.net is heading to Las Vegas to attend SuperZoo, the next largest pet industry extravaganza.