Sharon Spielman, Food Engineering (SS): What engineering challenges in particular do you see your pet food manufacturing customers face? How are these overcome?

Lars Povlsen, TOMRA Food: Seeing pet food manufactures facing the same challenges as food suppliers and the need to comply with Food Safety Regulations calls for change management in the way pet food is produced and packed. Just sticking to conventional detection methods avoiding FM can lead to expensive recalls and a damaged brand if a piece of plastic or a wrong kibble ends up in the final pack.

In a highly competitive market where negative publicity shared on social media can irreparably damage a processor’s reputation, removing undesired material from pet food through optical sorting increases customer satisfaction, maintains brand loyalty and protects a processor’s brand.

Lars Povlsen is global sales manager, proteins, at TOMRA Food. The company makes sensor-based sorting machines for the food industry as well as provides advanced sorting solutions for pet food producers.

Lars Povlsen, TOMRA Food


A TOMRA sorter is used at JG Pears to keep foreign materials out of the raw materials they supply to pet food processors. Photo courtesy of TOMRA Food

SS: Do the engineering challenges change depending on whether the product is wet or dry?

LP: The most serious customer complaints and product recalls come from the presence of foreign material in wet pet food or dry kibbles. Whereas the place to sort may be different from wet to dry, the technology stays the same. As the major part of the FM comes in with raw material, the manufacturer will also distinct between sorting it in-house, which works the best for frozen material, or let their suppliers sort if the raw will be dry (bone or poultry meal).

SS: Can you offer an example or two of how TOMRA has helped a pet food processor implement a hygienic design, avoid cross-contamination, etc.?

LP: 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.

Pet food customers today demand the highest quality product and hold a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to foreign material. 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.

Two of the leading companies in their segment in UK shows both seeing a clear advantage going this way. JG Pears is a leading processor of animal by-products and food waste, and GA Pet Food Partners is one the finest private-label dry pet food manufacturers. The one producing the raw material for the pet food manufactures, and the other producing more than 900 different recipes/kibbles packed in more than 3,000 different packages. Both choosing the solutions from TOMRA not only for securing their brand against complains and recalls, but even more being able to produce a first-class product. This has for both given a clear competitive advantage and been an opener for new customers and markets.

SS: What else should I know as I write this article about the engineering challenges that processors might face during pet food production?

LP: Rendering (animal by-product) turned into either bone or poultry meal used as raw protein material for pet food, aqua feed etc. As this will typically be the CAT3 products coming from abattoirs containing a diversity of FM, which could be everything from earplugs, gloves, plug fingers and so on. As there today is no really good solution getting this sorted before it ends up as meal, we do it before it leaves the processing plants taking out the smallest fragments being rubber, stones, glass, plastic, you name it. At the same, our technology can help enhance the quality of the final product by “boosting” the protein level. Better quality better money.

Pet food (kibbles). Avoiding cross-contamination is a must if you want to supply a high-class product and especially if you produce for APAC. The Japanese customer tends to handfeed to secure no false kibble is passed…. This not only secures you a clear competitive advantage but also save time and money. The typical way of avoiding cross-contamination today is dumping the first several hundred kilos changing from one recipe to another. This both costs product and time, which if you start to calculate makes the payback calculation easy.

And looking at the ongoing case with Aflatoxin, we also here would have a solution avoiding this. FE

Intro photo courtesy of Getty Images/humonia