Pet Food Ingredients
On March 1, 2013

The challenges of sourcing novel functional petfood ingredients

Nutritionists must partner with suppliers, manufacturers for innovative success

["Many good ideas and products come from the agricultural and human food worlds and can be adapted to our petfood domain.", "Availability and constant supply are key factors in the longevity of an innovative product being launched."]

As a result of increased nutritional awareness and consumer demand for more nutritious foods made with better ingredients, we have seen in the past 25 years the emergence of the superior quality petfood segment. These novel foods are based on the inclusion of primarily natural and functional ingredients. Many of these are biologically active, meaning that they provide some health benefit beyond basic nutrition, the overarching goal of which is to help pets live longer and healthier lives and thereby increase the happiness and wellbeing of their pet parents.

Although petfood formulation is based on science, the successful inclusion of novel ingredients is an art and has usually been the result of partnerships among nutritionists, scientists and specialty ingredients suppliers. Innovation occurs when a scientific concept, a social or commercial vision, artistic creativity and technical know-how meet.

For petfood nutritionists, the pleasure and passion is to develop new ideas with the goal of improving our furry companions' health and lives. New concepts come in two different ways: 1) through ideas on how to improve our pets' health, and 2) from novel ingredients introduced through suppliers and manufacturers.

The first way causes nutritionists to search constantly through the market and researchers to find novel ingredients that could achieve the target goals. This requires time and huge networking in order to find the proper solution. Often, when a novel ingredient is found, it is not yet ready for the market and needs more work on commercial availability, proper manufacturing and cost. This can be extremely attractive but the need to bring novelties to the market within an acceptable timeline can push them aside for some time.

The second one, and probably the best way to come to new health solutions concepts in a respectable timeline, is to be constantly in contact with ingredients suppliers and manufacturers and let them know that you are always open to novelties. The creation of partnerships and friendships with ingredients developers and suppliers creates allies, an infinite source of information and help in the petfood innovation process. They work for nutritionists by sourcing discoveries and their main action will always be to find and create the business concept and manufacturing to bring these novelties to market life and then to the nutritionist and his employer or customer.

The key factor is to always keep in mind that ingredients suppliers are partners in the same way as customers, and that their value goes beyond the financial success of a project. The stronger and more respectable the link with them is, the better the partnership and the collaboration in developing new concepts.

There are some important  attributes and qualities to look for in partnering with suppliers. Extensive expertise, experience and knowledge of the petfood as well the animal and human ingredients markets are crucial elements. Never forget that many good ideas and products come from the agricultural and human food worlds and can be adapted to our petfood domain.

Another key element to aim for is the access of the future supplier-partner to multiple resources such as feeding trials and analytical laboratories, universities and researchers, veterinarians, R&D companies, nutritionists and a worldwide network and sourcing of potential products and ingredients. With these, the partner should also be able to provide unique and distinctive products, processes and services through a network that can allow them to find personalized solutions to meet the customer's needs as well as his personality and identity. Their international effective supply chain will also ensure durability and sustainability for years to come.

In addition to this, working closely with ingredients suppliers and manufacturers provide access to a world of nutritional solutions and applications that could not be found elsewhere. Who knows better an ingredient than the ones who have been involved in its development and creation?

Affordability and steady supply can be discussed and negotiated at any time with ingredients suppliers. Being one of the first to bring to the market a new functional ingredient concept into a petfood is creating a partnership that can help strengthen the bonds to secure a business link. Simply creating a buyer-seller relationship will never bring all the tools required for a successful petfood innovation launch.

Finally, availability and constant supply are key factors in the longevity of an innovative product being launched. As functional ingredients make their proofs, availability becomes more present as new manufacturers may join the circle. On the other side, some special ingredients which have scarcer supplies can be secured by signing exclusivity contracts if volume can be justified.

One major fact has to be taken into consideration when innovation is being worked on: there are some risks at being developers, but remember that pioneers are overall winners when it comes to success, results and recognition. It is worth the devotion and the expense being the first to bring new concepts on the market, and if the petfood delivers what it had been developed for, customers will pay for it.

Read more: Innovation and pet nutrition

For more information on how innovative functional petfood ingredients originating from nutrition discoveries help improve and maintain pet health, see "Innovation in pet nutrition and ingredients,"

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