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Originally, novel proteins mostly served as tools to help veterinarians and pet owners find foods that would not trigger allergic reactions in dogs, cats and other pets. Now, novel proteins also provide a means for pet food manufacturers to meet consumer demands for sustainable products with nutritional benefits. The growing range of novel pet food proteins now includes everything from bugs to bison.
Pet food consumers demand benefits from novel proteins
Regardless of which rare meat (or other protein) is used, pet food brands benefit when those ingredients meet other criteria besides being uncommon, said James Restivo, director of client development at market research group Nielsen, during the opening session of Petfood Innovation Workshop 2018.
“So what I would tell you about novel protein is it is less about the novelty of the name with the animal itself, and it's more about the idea of what is that animal adding to the food?”
Using meat as the first ingredient in pet food formulations has grown in demand, he said, but consumers have become more discerning about what their dog and cats eat. That means that a protein ingredients needs to meet nutrition, health, ethical and sustainability concerns.
“I have meat as a first ingredient, now I need to know everything about that meat,” he said. “Where did it come from? How was it raised? How is it sustainable? And we are starting to see that in the marketplace.”
People want to know more of the backstory to the animal that made that meat, which holds true for novel proteins. Pet owners also want to know how the protein serves as a functional ingredient.
“Is it a better quality source?” he said. “Is it a mineral source? Is it a more sustainable source? If you can answer that question, that's when these novel protein starts to move center on the packaging.”
As consumers continue to refine their demands, future novel proteins may need to meet these same criteria of nutrition and sustainability.