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28th March 2022

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The Future of Pet Food Ingredients

Pet ownership has soared in the last 18 months. With rising pet ownership, demand for pet food has inevitably increased. Like the food industry, the pet food industry is undergoing significant investment and innovation. But what is driving change in the pet food industry?

WHAT’S DRIVING CHANGE IN THE PET FOOD INDUSTRY?
Over the last decade there has been a fundamental shift in attitudes towards pets being a ‘member of the family’ rather than simply a family pet. This social acceptance of our furry friends having a greater importance in our lives can be seen more recently in the growth of doggy day cares, the emergence of “Pawternity leave”, and the boom in online pet ‘influencers’. In addition to this, there are various surveys globally now indicating that spending on our pets is an expenditure that households are least likely to be cutting back on1 confirming the importance of pets in our lives and as a true member of the family.

Innovation in pet food is responding to key market trends such as humanisation where pet food more closely resembles human food in terms of ingredients, free-from and clean label. As well as premiumisation which further continues humanisation in the desire for greater transparency and pet food products to be made from premium ingredients, such as natural, locally sourced, organic, artisan ingredients and the inclusion of some superfoods.

When you look at these trends in the pet food industry, it is no surprise to see pet food ingredient manufacturers innovating to reflect similar trends seen in the food industry. As the food industry is gripped by sustainability and a drive for alternative proteins and ingredients, pet food ingredient manufacturers are looking to follow suit. As people look to embrace a diet with lower environmental impact, parents of humanised pets are more likely reflecting their own dietary changes on the diets of their furry friends.

NEXT GENERATION PROTEIN FOR PET FOOD INGREDIENTS
Protein is a key component in pet food nutritional profiles, with the AAFCO setting minimum protein contents for pet food. Typically, protein in pet food products is animal-derived and processed to improve its nutritional value, flavour and digestibility. Like the food industry, alternative protein sources are beginning to be assessed and used in the production of pet food products to replace traditional animal-derived proteins.

Plant protein is one of the hottest topics in the food industry and has no signs of cooling down anytime soon. It’s popularity has stemmed from an improved sustainability stance compared to animal-derived proteins. Plant-based proteins differ in their nutritional and functional profile. Different plant-based protein sources can be enzymatically processed and combined to achieve the desired amino acid profile, functionality, texture and taste. Combining multiple plant-based protein sources to produce a nutritionally ‘complete meal’ can be more challenging for pet food ingredient manufacturers, but it enables the production of suitable alternatives to animal-derived proteins with a significantly reduced environmental impact.

Delving further into non-animal-derived protein, are lab grown “meats” and food proteins produced through precision fermentation. Whilst these technologies are capable of producing proteins that can identically mimic their animal-derived counterparts, this is most certainly a much tougher nut to crack! Although cell cultures and precision fermentation enable much more creativity in ingredient innovation, there is still much consumer uncertainty about these technologies. Consumer acceptance in protein ingredients produced in this way is a barrier to them really taking off in the food industry. And whilst most dogs would happily consume anything that smelt and tasted like meat, it is ultimately the pet owners acceptance, just as for human food ingredients, that may hold them back from introducing such ingredients into their pets diet at this time.

Edible insects are a commonly spoken topic in the food industry and always raise a few eyebrows. Undeniably insects are a sustainable source of protein and nutrients. There is considerable research being undertaken reviewing the safety of insects in both human and pet diets. Insects are an excellent source of protein, containing essential amino acids as well as key minerals and vitamins. Additionally, the bioactivity of the carbohydrate compounds in the insects are often recognised for their positive influence on gut health and digestions and can be a beneficial ingredient for pet food products in the future.


ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR IMPROVED PALATABILITY
But it’s not just about the nutritional ingredients in pet food, if it doesn’t taste good your pets bowl may not get emptied at mealtimes. Palatants are flavours specifically produced by enzymically breaking down animal fats and proteins to give a sensory boost to pet food. Palatants are often sprayed onto pet food creating a layer of enticing flavour and texture. As the industry looks to offer pet food products made with ingredients that better reflect consumer food trends, pet food manufacturers are innovating using non-animal derived ingredients to deliver a similar sensorial experience. Yeast and yeast-based ingredients are more frequently being used in the production of pet food products due to their significant contribution to product taste, but also their functional benefits. As a complete protein with an abundance of B vitamins, yeast is good for both humans and pets. Yeast as a by-product from the brewing industry has a distinct aroma and taste that is attractive to pets and can be used as a natural flavour enhancer to improve the palatability of pet food products whilst offering an alternative to animal-derived palatants.


There is no doubt the pet food industry is witnessing a significant period of growth and modernisation. With exciting innovations and technologies for the industry, consumer acceptance remains a similar barrier to the human food industry at the moment for some of these new and innovative ingredients being used in pet food. Formulating new ingredients poses different challenges for the pet food manufacturers in tackling requirements for a different appearance, texture and taste compared to the human food industry. Producing ingredients that are nutritious, attractive to pets and meet pet owners demands when it comes to humanisation and premiumisation, pet food manufacturers are increasingly facing challenges in harmonising these three product requirements. Enzymes play a key role in catalysing precise reactions to achieve ingredient products with desired attributes. With unique and specific activities enzymes can be deployed in complex matrices to improve the functionality, texture, flavour and digestibility of different ingredients. As new protein sources are introduced into pet food products the greater the challenge for manufacturers. Biocatalysts Ltd have a comprehensive range of enzymes suitable for precise processing to enhance ingredients, that can be used independently or in combination with multiple enzymes. Different levels and specificities of enzymatic hydrolysis will be required depending on the protein source and the desired pet food ingredient attributes. If you’re facing challenges in incorporating new ingredients into pet food products and would like more information on our products or to arrange a free sample of our enzymes please contact Biocatalysts Ltd.

1 https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/us-pets-investing-trend

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