PET Food Processing - June 2018 - 47


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Specialty pet foods and treats offer brands the opportunity to differentiate.
By Deena Krestel-Rickert, Ph.D., Four Paws Solutions, LLC |


What makes a pet food a "specialty food"? The definition of specialty pet foods can differ from a cross between commercial pet foods and homemade diets, to
solely a functional food, to pet foods and treats offering
unique attributes not found in traditional commercial
pet foods. Global dry pet food production grew to 28.1
million tons according to the 2018 Alltech Global Feed
Survey and market research firm Packaged Facts reports
that U.S. pet food sales reached $29 billion in 2017. In a
market so large, brands seek ways to differentiate products. Specialty pet foods can do that by featuring specific
characteristics that most traditional foods don't offer.
These characteristics may include its form, ingredients,
proposed health benefits or the manufacturing process.
Alessandro Di Cerbo, Ph.D., reports in Research in
Veterinary Science, June 2017, that functional pet foods
can modify gastrointestinal physiology, improve brain
function and promote changes in biochemical parameters. Increasingly, pet owners are trusting their veterinarians for food recommendations or are purchasing
foods that are promoted as veterinarian recommended.
The scientific information that provides the basis for
many specialty diets and the sales of these foods is growing every year.
Packaged Facts predicts in the "Pet Market Outlook
2018-2019" report that this science-driven approach will
assume a higher level of importance as pet food manufacturers, retailers and veterinarians work together to
counter revenue strains presented by the growth of on-

line sales and more super premium pet foods entering
the mass market as Blue Buffalo did in August 2017.
Collaboration between processors and veterinarians
is crucial to maximize digestibility, minimize nutrient
degradation and ensure the overall nutrition of the food,
whether the specialty diet is made with limited ingredients, unique proteins, extruded, raw, fresh, freeze-dried,
dehydrated or frozen ingredients.

Green Source
Organics says green
lipped mussels
contain all 18 amino
acids, including
taurine for cats.
Green Source Organics

From good to better
In the push for limited, recognizable ingredients, processors are embracing unique ingredients to replace some
long-standing, standard pet ingredients that may be
highly processed. One example of this is the green lipped
mussel, which is more commonly used in hip and joint
diets, but is now being included in formulations for its
unique protein content. Larry Blitz, president of Green
Source Organics, Ventura, California, explains that the
green lipped mussel is processed via freeze drying which
stabilizes marine lipids and prevents denaturing of its protein, which contains all 18 amino acids, including taurine
for cats. The freeze-drying process technically qualifies it
for use as a raw food without the concern of high microbial-loads. Additionally, it is sustainably farmed in New
Zealand making it an attractive clean-label option.
Another specialty ingredient gaining popularity is
ground miscanthus grass (M-Fiber) as a fiber substitute
for tomato pomace, beet pulp and powdered cellulose.
It's promoted as sustainable, all natural, non-GMO and | June 2018 | PET FOOD PROCESSING


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