Very often the small animal and bird sector of petfood is overshadowed by the rapidly growing and ever-adapting-to-the-human-food-market that is dog and cat food. Although these tinier creatures have smaller mouths to feed, their pet parents' appetites for innovative, healthy and fun products for their hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, chinchillas, rabbits and birds continues to be ravenous. Internationally, the small animal and bird market is becoming increasingly important as young adults are waiting longer to get married and start families, residing longer in small apartments and cityscapes that are often a friendlier environment for small caged mammals and birds.

According to Euromonitor International, from 2004-2009 total sales of petfoods made for animals other than dogs and cats grew by 21.5% internationally and is expected to grow by more than 5% by 2014 (see Figure 1). No longer producing just the typical fare you might find at a feed store -- like a bale of hay and a tub of sunflower seeds -- manufacturers of small companion animal foods and treats are working hard to bring fresh, often adorable and highly marketable products to market. Instead of turning our spotlight on kibbles, bits and freshly canned fish, let's peruse the creative offerings manufacturers for small animals and birds are bringing to the international table.

1. Brandenburch, producer of easily digestible cereal products and a key supplier to companies making food for small mammals and birds, has recently introduced the New Generation line of food products for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and small rodents like hamsters and rats. The New Generation food offers extruded ingredients that are available in different shapes, colors and taste, but all with the same quality and nutrition, according to Brandenburch. The extruded products -- like carrots, beets, maize, wheat and rice -- can be sold as mixers or blended together to make specific formulas.

2. Nutrievo, supplier and maker of private label bird foods, has recently developed a new OptiBird line in conjunction with experts at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The bird food is described as an ultra premium, everyday diet for adults birds and is offered in four different mixes for Small, Medium, Medium+ and Large. The OptiBird formula is unique because it is not made up of extruded food but contains crumlets, specially shaped pellets with high-quality fruit and seeds, according to Nutrievo. The crumlets are a more natural product and ensure a good combination of structure and fibers for better digestion in birds, the company says.

3. Witte Molen recently introduced Nature Select Bird, a premium petfood with an enticing smell for birds. This petfood has been developed especially for birds and contains Witte Molen eggfood, which gives a lovely smell to the food, pleasant both for the animal and the pet parent, according to the company. Witte Molen also claims this is the first bird product on the market that specifically targets the animals' sense of smell. The premium mixture available internationally and is offered in parakeet, budgerigar and canary formulas.

4. German-based Hugro has an astounding offering of petfoods, treats, litters and accessories for small animals and birds that includes colorful graphics and packaging, the use of sustainable products such as hemp in its small animal litters and bedding, and unique products like "dressings" and "bio-extracts" to top petfoods with. The dressings are actually liquid feed supplements for rabbits, rodents and birds. High-quality cold-pressed vegetable oils are used to produce the product, according to the company, and it is suitable for all low-fat-fed animals because it boosts energy, especially for birds, whose diet is often very one-sided with oils and fats. The Hugro dressing is composed of essential fatty acids like unsaturated linoleic acid, which is an essential component in boosting the immune system and aids in pain and inflammation defense.

5. CeDe is a worldwide leader in eggfood for birds and has distinguished itself from other bird food producers by processing fresh chicken eggs into a nutritious egg cake, according to the company. Chicken eggs are a very important source of high-quality animal protein that is necessary for healthy feathers, a shiny coat and the best breeding results for the birds. A batter is made from eggs, flour and sugar and is baked via a computer-controlled oven, ensuring a good microbiological quality to the end product, according to CeDe literature. After the egg cake is cooled, it is crumbled, dried and sifted into different sizes. The final product is then packaged and sold in their plethora of premium varieties that includes food for budgies, finches, canaries and song birds.

Watch video online!
Check out Edo Paymans, sales and marketing manager for Nutrievo, as he explains how the company worked with a leading zoo to develop its new custom OptiBird foods, on display at Interzoo 2010.