As the global reach of commercially produced pet diets
continues to expand, one thing remains consistent from market to market, from
formula to formula: The taste of petfood remains incredibly important, but hard
to convey and explain to pet parents. From emerging markets where companion
animals are just starting to make the leap from table scraps to prepackaged,
extruded food to health-conscious developed markets where overweight cats and
dogs need to make the switch from a calorie-laden petfood to a low-fat diet
option, taste remains king. If Fido or Fifi turn up their nose at what their
pet parent is filling their bowl with, no amount of clever ad campaigns or
transparent labeling will get that customer to return to your brand.
This is why the palatability of petfood will always be
important to petfood producers and why it’s important for you to know what is
available to help enhance the flavor, smell and texture of dog and cat food.
Let’s take a look at some of the most unique palatants, latest technology and
ground-breaking research in the field of palatability in 2014.
Palatants are ingredient systems that
are specially designed to make petfoods, treats and supplements taste better.
Palatants entice a pet to consume a food, treat or supplement that, while nutritious,
may be inconsistent with their native diet, AFB International explains. Dry
foods make more frequent use of palatants, and use palatants at higher inclusion
rates than wet foods. (Wet foods tend naturally to be more palatable due to processing
techniques and higher moisture content.) Palatants are available as dry
powders, liquids and gravies, and are designed to be applied topically, while others
function best when mixed into the kibble or can, says AFB. Typically, palatants
are formulated for either dog or cat foods, but sometimes a palatant works well
Last year, AFB International launched their Palatants Plus
blog. The blog is designed to share the latest petfood palatability research
and developments with petfood industry professionals and how they can enhance petfood
performance. Current topics include collaborative innovation, liquid
palatants, tracking palatability, electronic nose (e-nose), electronic tongue
(e-tongue) and flavor fatigue. New content is added regularly, like this post
on Palatant Basics: Your Questions Answered.
Diet foods can be a hard sell to a picky pet, as can
ingredient-free formulas for pets with allergies or medicated treats or foods.
This is where palatants and flavor enhancers can really help. Innova (www.innovaflavors.com),
for example, says its Vegamine AT low-sodium/high-enhancement hydrolyzed
vegetable protein can lower sodium in foods while still maintaining a desirable
flavor, rather than using a potassium chloride. The low-sodium hydrolyzed
vegetable protein is ideal for use as a flavor enhancer in gravies, soups,
stews and petfoods.
Malt Products Corporation (www.maltproducts.com)
offers malt and molasses ingredients to add to petfoods. In many cases,
flavor masking is a major problem when pharmaceuticals or bitter ingredients
need to be used and it has been found that malt and molasses provide just the
right masking needed to get pets to consume these products, according to the
company. Their flavor, color, sweetness, binding, humectancy and bulking characteristics
provide opportunities to formulate products with enhanced
palatability. Both liquid and dry malts and molasses are available.
ovine plasma powder is manufactured using ovine blood from free range lambs and
sheep living in Australia and can be used to formulate limited-ingredient wet
petfood, treats and snacks. The powder binds the elements of the petfood
together and delivers additional taste and palatability benefits. Ovine plasma
powder avoids the allergies suffered by pets when consuming bovine or porcine
Kemin Industries (www.kemin.com) offers Palasurance SP Dog
Dryâ€“Granulated (SPDD-G) palatability enhancer, a chicken liver-based, dry
palatant designed specifically for optimizing tablet hardness and friability
during high-speed tableting. It serves as an alternative to beef liver and
chicken liver powders, according to the company, and is free of
While new palatants can ensure great flavor for your
formulas, new technology that helps create and test the quality of these
enhancers continues to be just as important.
order to constantly offer petfood manufacturers performing palatants, SPF,
part of Diana's petfood division, continues to work on
the comprehension of dogs' and cats' palatability drivers. The
company continues to develop its expertise by conducting and sharing research
to more fully understand animal feeding behavior. In a
recent study, they confirmed it was possible to distinguish cat populations showing similar food preferences and
even to map cat individual preference profiles. This research opens
new paths for cat food performance and suggests that segmenting products
according to cat food preferences could be an opportunity to better satisfy the cat
Beside this research focused on
animals, Diana Pet Food experts are considering another major component of the
palatability system: the pet owner. Market feedback on the performance
of a food is closely linked with owner perception of pet enjoyment
during meal time. Panelis, Diana Pet Food expert
center in palatability measurement, has recently launched methods that
allow for the measurement of the “emotional palatability” of a diet. The
Liking Test method was designed to allow the assessment
of criteria listed by pet owners as significantly impacting their
perception of a cat or dog’s satisfaction, thus product performance. Conducted via an expert panel, the Liking Test uses one-bowl distribution to be closer to true in-home
feeding conditions. This method measures the percentage of
ration eaten, the refusals and emptied bowls, and the speed of consumption. By combining and weighing results obtained for these
criteria in a mathematical equation, Panelis is able to calculate an
objective and reliable score reflecting petfood performance. This Panelis
Happiness Index (PHI) is a unique way
to measure pets’ feeding enjoyment, according to the company.
In the recent study, “The Effects of Cooking Process and
Meat Inclusion on Pet Food Flavor and Texture Characteristics” by a team from
the Departments of Human Nutrition and Grain Science and Industry at Kansas
State University, results could help petfood technologists better
understand factors that affect palatability. The results of this research
indicate that processing (baked vs. extruded) plays an important role in
determining petfood product texture. In addition, raw ingredients (fresh meat
vs. meal-based) did not consistently affect product sensory characteristics.
Descriptive sensory analysis and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
were used to analyze the petfood samples. It was found that baked samples were
lighter in color, and had lower levels of attributes that indicated rancidity,
whereas extruded petfoods were more cohesive in mass, more friable, hard and
crisp, but less powdery than baked samples. Fresh meat inclusion tended to
decrease bitterness and increase fishy flavor and cohesiveness of petfoods.
High thermal to mechanical energy ratio during extrusion resulted in less musty
and more porous kibbles.