10 NEWS Pet Product News International December 2018
AQUATIC EXPERIENCE RECAP
Event Gets Its Feet Wet in Jersey
The Aquatic Experience makes its East Coast debut after a solid
run in Chicago, delighting both exhibitors and attendees.
BY JENNIFER BONCY
“This is going to be a great show.”
That was the prediction of exhibitor Lance Reyniers, president of Milwaukee-based
Python Products, shortly after the doors opened for attendees at the Aquatic Experi-
ence trade and consumer show on Oct. 19.
The three-day event, which is organized by the World Pet Association (WPA),
was held this year at the Meadowlands Exhibition Center in Secaucus, N.J., after
a five-year run in Chicago, and while some industry participants wondered if the
venue change would hurt or help the show’s attendance numbers, many exhibitors
welcomed it with open arms.
“Visiting other parts of the country is a great thing, and I think [WPA] did their
homework in picking a venue,” said Reyniers.
Another fan of the new venue was first-time exhibitor “Jungle” Bob Smith, owner of Jungle Bob’s Reptile World, which has two stores in New York. Smith was at
the show promoting his Jungle Bob line of products including 3-D aquarium backgrounds, reptile bowls and dishes, and reptile ravines and décor items designed to
attractively conceal heaters, filters and other necessary equipment.
“This is our first aquatics [specific] show,” he said. “We’re happy it’s in New Jersey
and not in California, Chicago or Florida.”
Susi Lacoff Resner, director of education and special events for Jungle Bob’s, also
praised the show’s location change.
“I really do think it’s a better show,” Resner said. “You get a bigger draw. We’ve
seen people from Maine, Vermont, North Carolina and Florida.”
WPA president Jacinthe Moreau said the organization was excited to bring the
show to the Northeast.
“Our goal is to share the fishkeeping hobby to new hobbyists while supporting
the aquatic industry with education for hobbyists and retailers as well as a vibrant
show floor,” she said. “The five years spent in Chicago resulted in a strong following,
and we saw attendance from multiple states, which extended our reach to an even
The event is open to the public as well as industry professionals such as pet spe-
cialty retailers, distributors and others in the trade. Aside from an active show floor
on which retail buyers and hobbyists alike can shop for aquatic products, the show
features a full docket of educational programming for both consumers and profes-
sionals. This year, it also presented an array of attractions and activities designed to
delight attendees of all ages, including an aquarium contest for kids and a live shark
encounter, during which, several times a day, audiences watched as a scuba-diving
host interacted with nurse sharks in an oversized tank while educating viewers about
the animals, their behaviors and natural habitat.
Aquatic Experience’s heavy focus on attracting consumers, including families with
the youngest of hobbyists in tow, has proven a boon to exhibitors, for which the event
provides opportunities to both network with retailer buyers and court the interest of
fish keepers, they report.
“Events like Aquatic Experience and America’s Family Pet Expo [which is also
organized by WPA and held annually in California] provide tremendous value to
participating brands like Fluval, as well as the aquatics industry and the hobby in
general,” said Damian Hall, senior marketing director for Mansfield, Mass.-based
the Hagen Group, which manufactures the Fluval brand of aquatic products. “These
events establish a direct link to invested consumers who are excited to see new prod-
ucts and interact with the brands.”
Hall pointed out that the show is helpful to attendees who are just getting their
feet wet in the hobby, as well.
“Aquatic Experience is unique in that it provides an opening to new hobbyists
to come and explore fishkeeping and learn how to be successful as they enter the
And while some might still question whether the event’s migration from the Mid-
west to the Northeast has turned back the clock a bit, making it once again an unprov-
en foray into the pet trade and consumer show circuit, other participants said they
were confident in its standing.
“The show is coming in with a reputation, with a track record,” said Janet Reyniers
of Python Products, “and it’s only going to grow. It’s fun to be on the ground floor.”
Bob Likins, vice president of governmental affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council
(PIJAC), delivered a legislative update during which he detailed the organization’s effort to
protect the aquarium trade in a hostile climate, including PIJAC’s most expensive effort to date:
addressing trade-inhibiting legislation in Hawaii.
WPA president Jacinthe Moreau (right) recognized Barry Berman, president and co-found-
er of retailer co-op Nex-Pet and Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals pet food company, as
well as vice chairman of World Pet Association (WPA), for his commitment to the pet
industry with a donation made in his name by David Lass of Nex-Pet.