At the turn of the century, while many of the fast-moving consumer goods categories in the U.S. felt the impact of a down-turned economy, pet care established itself to be recession-proof. Overall, the pet industry increased by nearly USD$46.9 billion between 2001 and 2019, with dog and cat food accounting for roughly 40% of those sales.
Growth of pet food in the U.S. can be attributed to many factors. Premiumization continues to drive pet food market sales and growth in both developed and developing markets. This trend, along with humanization, continue to control the direction of the pet food industry.
At the intersection of science and industry, Natasha Davis, strategic client partner with Nielsen, presented her perspective on pet food growth in the U.S. through the lens of premiumization and how it is affected by marketing, science and consumer preference during the lunch keynote presentation the first full day of Petfood R&D Showcase, held October 15-17, 2019, at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, USA.
This year’s theme, “Leveraging science into product innovation,” was focused on taking scientific knowledge and turning it into a pet food product that consumers will appreciate.
“This topic should speak to every part of modern pet food and appeal to any company, employee or new entrant to this market that hopes to gain an edge over the competition,” said Greg Aldrich, Ph.D., research associate professor and coordinator for the pet food program at Kansas State University.
Incorporate new ideas into products
Science and technology have been key to a host of new pet food products over the past several decades. Learning about new discoveries and how they can be integrated into products are key to new product success. In addition to workshops and interactive demonstrations, Petfood R&D Showcase featured the latest research that pet food producers and suppliers can incorporate into their product offerings.
Lindsey Hulbert, Ph.D., assistant professor, animal behavior, Kansas State University, discussed advancements in behavioral technologies that are currently being tested in pigs and cattle to improve both health and animal welfare. Animal caretakers use behavior as their primary method of making housing and management decisions, and behavior has long been considered a subjective measure. Behavior also is often perceived as inaccessible, which may be due to the sensationalism of “animal whisperers.” Nonetheless, behavior is a direct representation of the animal’s nervous system and brain. With advancements and accessibility of technology, behavior measures now serve as more valid, sensitive and real-time biomarkers than the standard health biomarkers (e.g., heart rate, blood hormones). This presentation covered some of the advancements in behavioral technologies that are currently being tested in pigs and cattle to improve both health and animal welfare.
Yong-Cheng Shi, Ph.D., professor, Department of Grain Science and Industry, Kansas State University, presented research about resistant starches and factors that influence starch digestibility. Starches from different botanical sources have different enzyme digestibility and resistant starch content. Many factors including starch composition, granular morphology, surface organization, granular architecture, type of crystal polymorph, granular size and the presence of compound granules have been suggested to have large effects on the rate and extent of enzymatic hydrolysis. However, the exact underlying mechanism of relative resistance of starch granules is complicated and not well understood because those factors are often interconnected. In addition, the susceptibility of starch granules to enzymes and the extent of enzymatic hydrolysis are controlled by enzyme sources, enzyme and substrate concentration, hydrolysis temperature, and time, as well as the presence of other components. Processing conditions such as grinding, hydrothermal treatment, pelleting also affect starch digestibility and the underlying causes were discussed.
Janak Dhakal, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Grain Science and Industry, Kansas State University, presented how pathogens contaminate pet food. Attendees learned about the various ways and stages at which the pathogens (Salmonella, E. coli, fungus) contaminate pet food and their effects on pet food, humans and the industry. The presentation covered approaches to take to control contamination of pathogens and their mitigation strategies at post-processing steps by the use of antimicrobials and topical additives. Research data on Salmonella mitigation in pet food that are generated in the Kansas State University pet food lab were presented.
Tom Phillips, Ph.D., professor of entomology, Kansas State University, explored strategies to prevent mite infestation in semi-moist pet foods. Semi-moist pet food products are at constant risk from infestation by a serious pest that is known as the mold mite, or the cheese mite, and sometime the ham mite, with the scientific name Tyrophagus putrescentiae. This presentation included a review of the biology of this mite pest to center on its adaptations for infesting pet foods; the history of certain generally regarded as safe (GRAS) food preservatives, particularly propylene glycol, to prevent infestations; the potential for a variety of food additives to protect pet foods from mites; the potential for mite-proof food packages; and an overview of general pest management approaches to reduce the risk of mite infestation and ensure manufacture and delivery of pest-free high value pet foods.