Ingredients: The strategic puzzle
BY Marcel Blok
It’s high time to get seriously worried about the main building block of our industry: ingredients, raw materials and/or commodities. Whichever terminology used, the clock is ticking and it’s already five minutes to 12. The time is more than due to stop lip-servicing the issue and start to do something tangible and sustainable to prepare ourselves for a different future.
Dramatic lows in harvests succeed one another with shorter intervals; which implies that there is less time to replenish strategic inventories. More money available on a global scale not only means that people can take better care of their pets, but also means that ingredients which were not in demand for human food until recently now start to become so. The consequence is that less animal by-products will be available for use in petfoods.
The bigger, multinational companies are undoubtedly active in the field of searching for alternatives, but the vast majority of smaller operators simply do not have the funds to invest in any form of fundamental exploration. One might argue that if these companies would pool their funds, the money then available would most likely be sufficient to engage in such exploration. But this kind of cooperation seems to be a bridge too far for the industry; at least on the manufacturing side. So maybe there is a noble role to play for the ingredient suppliers. Because, after all, a sustainable petfood industry is in their best interest, as well.
Let’s look back at the times before the industry started to develop. Dog and cats were fed waste material such as table scraps or leftovers. Because it was gradually better understood that our pets need a more balanced diet, the industry started to develop and offer solutions. What we should now ask ourselves is whether or not human-grade material is required to feed our pets adequately, while providing them with a happy and healthy life. If one realizes that in some markets so-called economy petfoods are formulated according to human-grade standards but are sold at a price that is lower than piglet feed, the question seems valid.
Maybe we can go one step further back and use table waste again. If we realize that in the out-of-home eating industry at least 20% of what has been ordered is actually not eaten, we understand the amount of waste generated. But can this waste—consisting of human-grade protein, fat and carbohydrates—be recycled specifically for petfoods? To serve as a key ingredient or a base ingredient? Are there alternative carbohydrate sources that are now in short supply because they are uncommon, but which can be grown in much bigger quantities in their regions of origin?
It is clear that the time has come to redirect management focus from seeking efficiency improvement in production to seriously researching new opportunities in the procurement of alternative ingredients. Because ingredients are the basis of what we do: We prepare food!