Interview with Cathy Enright, CEO, Pet Food Institute Part 1

The following is excerpts from an interview by Petnet VP of Food, Steve Pelletier with Cathy Enright, CEO of the Pet Food Institute.

Steve: Nice to speak with you Cathy. How long have you been the CEO of the Pet Food Institute (PFI)?

Cathy: Thank you for the opportunity to talk! I joined the Pet Food Institute (PFI) as the president and CEO in April, 2015.

Steve: Tell me your organization’s primary mission?

Cathy: The mission of the Pet Food Institute, whose members make 98% of all U.S. pet food and treat products, is to support the long and healthy lives of cats and dogs. In this regard, we provide factual information about pet food and treat safety, nutrition, and ingredients to pet lovers. We also reinforce the need to follow feeding directions and treat responsibly, and present other information on pet health.

Our goal, no matter which pet food and treats pet parents choose, is to serve as a credible resource that helps shoppers make informed decisions about their pet’s diet and nutrition. One step we’ve taken to support this goal is launch a 90-second whiteboard video and an accompanying detailed narrative to explain the basics of how pet food is made, which was released earlier this year. In addition, last month we released a new interactive infographic series “Nutrition from Nose to Tail,” which was designed to make pet nutrition simple for pet lovers. This series provides facts in an instant about how we all support our pets by feeding complete and balanced nutrition, meaning a diet that contains the more than 40 essential nutrients for dogs and cats and is appropriate for the life stage of the pet. The series also addresses other important nutrients that also help support pet health, such as carbohydrates.

PFI also advocates for a transparent, science-based regulatory environment. The safety and nutrition of pet food products are the number one priority for PFI members. Many people do not realize that pet food and treats are among the most regulated food products in the United States, including at the federal and state level. As such, clear and practical laws and regulations are critical. While our members’ food safety culture began to change over a decade ago, many of their practices were incorporated into the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which significantly changed U.S. food safety regulation including the regulation of pet food and treats. PFI now works closely with regulators and within the industry to help ensure our members are ready for the new requirements under the law.

Of course, safety in pet food products is a responsibility for all pet food makers, not just PFI members. Earlier this year, we shared an open letter to all U.S. pet food and treat makers – both large and small, members and non-members of the association – urging them to understand their obligations under this new safety law and providing them with important compliance dates. To further emphasize the commitment to safety, PFI members come together on a regular basis to discuss innovations and new learnings in pet food manufacturing safety, and to discuss safety practices with our suppliers. For our members, safety is non-competitive. Lastly, PFI works with our members to identify key independent research to address cross-industry safety goals and then funds such research.

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Steve: Can you provide a snapshot of your membership base along with a few examples? (e.g., industry specialty and example member names. I am trying to understand exactly who is in your constituency).

Cathy: PFI membership represents approximately 98% of pet food and treats made in the United States, and. consists of many of the companies you know, as well as co-manufacturers that help produce food and treats under other brands. There is a broad marketplace for pet food and types of diets that offer complete and balanced nutrition, and our members make wet, dry, fresh and raw-infused, as well as a variety of treats.

Steve: I have been following the pet food industry since 2012 when I started SlimDoggy. Yet, I hadn’t heard of PFI until this year’s SuperZoo show. Is that because you focus marketing directly to the trade or is it that I am just oblivious?

Cathy: PFI has grown much more active and public-facing in the past two and a half years. Pet parents today have a lot of questions about pet food and treats—how are they made, what do label claims such as natural, organic and “free-from” mean, and why a “complete and balanced” recipe is critical, for example. PFI recognized its responsibility to share straightforward information and be part of the dialogue on pet food and treats across social media. As such, two years ago we relaunched the PFI website and Twitter handle with new content accompanied with citations. We are continuously adding more articles, infographics and webpages. As mentioned above, earlier this year we created a new webpage and video highlighting how pet food is made and taking the viewer through the journey, from identifying trusted ingredient suppliers to traceability assurances when packaging the final product. The video received more than 80,000 views, sending us a strong message about the continued demand for more information.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview next week.

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