Non-traditional pet food:
Photo courtesy of Purina
A couple months after the launch of Beyond Nature’s Protein, the company says it is satisfied with the performance of the range, which was in line with their expectations. They say consumer acceptance is promising. “From a consumer research perspective, we carried out some research in December 2020, and found that 83% of the Swiss consumers who tried the range confirmed their pet liked the product and 75% of them would repurchase the product,” the Purina spokesperson says. The research was conducted among 1,700 Swiss consumers in December 2020.
Veterinarians and nutritionists at Purina put together two dry food recipes for Beyond Nature’s Protein brand: one based on chicken, pig’s liver and millet; the second using insect protein, chicken and fava beans. Photo courtesy of Purina
Coperion twin screw ZSK extruder offers a hygienic design and is suitable for processing non-traditional pet food. Photo courtesy of Coperion, Stuttgart, Germany
Processors must be cognizant of what consumers expect—even demand—at all times. “The pet food customer today demands the highest quality product and holds a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to foreign material,” says Lars Povlsen, global sales manager, proteins, at TOMRA Sorting GmbH. “Rubber, plastics, wood and even glass simply do not belong in premium pet food, and an in-line optical sorter ensures a safe and superior product. Investing in optical sorting showcases a pet food processor’s willingness to tackle industry challenges like foreign material and cross-contamination through innovative technology. Processors that implement optical sorting will undoubtedly increase their market share by differentiating themselves from other suppliers.”
Craig Harrison, site manager at JG Pears, a processor of the raw materials for pet food, says the company is delighted with the sorters they installed. “Non-conformances with our customers have reduced dramatically and regarding the TOMRAs, we see very, very little waste and foreign bodies in our material. The current customers already have seen the difference in the finished product, and we're also having lots of interest from additional customers asking and enquiring about buying our material.”
Vicky Prussia, customer relations manager at JG Pears, adds, “After we'd installed TOMRA, we started to look at some of the things that the machine was taking out of our process, and some of the things that we saw were things like plastics, wood, rubber. Just having the TOMRA machines in the factory, we can see now that we are removing more of the foreign bodies.”
Tom Barber, vice president at Bühler Aeroglide, adds that Bühler can assist pet food processors in determining processing parameters for the equipment and formulas incorporating the alternative proteins and non-traditional pet food. “We can do this in our global network of labs and process technology centers that have pilot plants. We can determine the relationship between product formulation, extruder screw configuration and operating conditions, and dryer operating parameters to achieve the desired final product. This would be the same as we do for customers making traditional pet food or pet treats. For truly novel, startup companies with unique product ideas, Bühler has our CUBIC innovation center in Uzwil, Switzerland, for collaboration and development between industry, academia and Bühler specialists,” he says.
Speaking of startups with unique product ideas, take a look at the cultured meat segment. Funding for these types of companies was up 266% in 2020, according to FutureBridge, a company that tracks and advises enterprises on the future of industries from a 1- to 25-year perspective.
In the last decade, dozens of startups have sought to make cell-cultured meat both tasty and affordable with the end goal of persuading consumers to turn their backs on conventional meat.
“We are now witnessing cultured meat products move from the lab to the factory,” says Sarah Browner, senior analyst at FutureBridge. “Many cultured meat companies believe they will have commercial products ready within the next few years. However, they caution that it is more important to get the release right than to do it quickly.”
Of course, this data is specific to culturing meat for human consumption. As if on cue, here comes that kitten on its human’s heels. Look at Because Animals, a novel pet food company that began at a cat rescue. Shannon Falconer and her business partner, Joshua Errett, were volunteering to help get stray and feral cats off the street. They wanted to create a healthier, safer, more environmentally friendly way to feed pets, so they used their combined expertise in science and business to create cultured meat for pet food and founded Because Animals.
Falconer notes they are still developing cultured meat, but the process to produce their pet food will be completely vertical. “We can harvest the meat and prepare the food on the same production floor,” she says.
Several people in the industry shared their insights on pet food production and the current role of alternative proteins. Q&As can be found by clicking on the links below. All Q&As have been edited for style, length and clarity. FE