When a small group of distributors met in Chicago in the spring of 1968 to create the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), they could not
have known what the pet industry would look like 50 years
later. They were all first- and second-generation family
business owners. They purchased products from small
manufacturers whose owners sealed deals with a handshake. They sold to independent pet stores that competed
with the other independent pet store down the street or
the five-and-dime around the corner.
The pet industry was in its infancy, but these 16 business owners had the foresight to realize that change was
coming and the time was ripe to work cooperatively on behalf of all distributors. Their mission—to enhance the well
being of wholesaler-distributors and to promote partnerships with their suppliers and customers—has stood the
test of time. PIDA exists today because it has stayed true
to that mission.
Of the 34 distributor companies that attended PIDA’s
first-annual meeting in January 1969, only two remain today—Joseph M. Brady Co. in Needham, Mass., and R.H.
McElheney, Inc. in Chicago. The advent of super-premium
pet food drove business expansion in the 1980s and led
to the first wave of distributor consolidation. Pet specialty
chains began to spring up in many metropolitan areas,
challenging independent pet stores for shoppers’ loyalty.
More recently, private equity has fueled another wave of
consolidation among all segments of the industry.
Over the years and through all the changes, PIDA has
adapted to meet the needs of its members. Our trade
shows, which were once regional affairs, have morphed
into the largest annual pet products trade show in the
world—Global Pet Expo. The PIDA Annual Meeting, once
an exclusive event for PIDA-member distributors and their
suppliers, is now an industry-wide conference—the Pet
Industry Leadership Conference—inviting anyone with an
interest in pet products to network and share their ideas
with other business leaders.
“The Power of D” became a shorthand phrase and a
marketing campaign to describe the value that wholesaler-distributors bring to the supply chain. Pet Store Pro became a universally recognized source of training excellence
for retail pet store associates. And Pets in the Classroom
introduced nearly four million school children to the joy of
daily contact with a pet.
I am proud to have been associated with PIDA for more
than half of its existence and for most of my professional
life. I have seen first-hand the difference that business
leaders working together can make in shaping the future
of an industry. PIDA’s lasting legacy is reflected in the
continued growth of the pet industry and the role that distributors play in helping pet owners discover the very best
products to care for their pets. Congratulations, PIDA, on
50 years of excellence. ✱
BY STEVE KING, PRESIDENT, PIDA