Making a small change to a pet food formulation can affect everything from palatability to processing to packaging, Amanda Dainton, Ph.D., research project leader for Freshpet, said in her presentation at Petfood Essentials on May 2 in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. To avoid at least part of this hassle, she recommended that pet food formulators reconsider what they already have when considering new product development or formulation changes.
“If we swap out one ingredient for another, we might have challenges to our processing, as well as having challenges with our packaging,” she said. “You will be the most successful if you're able to anticipate some of those changes in cascading effects, and adapt and be ready to address them if at all possible.”
Considering ingredients, she suggested not looking too far. Pet food formulators may find an ingredient already in their inventory that can meet their needs. No need to reinvent the wheel.
These in-stock ingredients must provide the functionality that pet food makers need from a nutritional perspective, as well as a product functionality perspective, she said. Pet food formulators need to consider proteins and amino acids, fatty acids, fibers, vitamins and minerals. And not all ingredients are going to be equal and those aspects.
“The same is going to be true for product functionality,” she said. “Some ingredients are very good at holding water. Other ingredients are good at providing a structure matrix. Even though it's might be In the simplest way forward to use an ingredient we already have in house, we must make sure that it's going to provide the functionality we're looking for.”
Pet food ingredient supply chains
Likewise, pet food makers need to ask current suppliers if they can provide more of that ingredient.
“It would be phenomenal if an ingredient we already have is going to meet our needs,” she said. “But if our supplier doesn't have enough of it to sell to us, it's going to make this a little bit more complicated. It means we might need to source another supplier. Or we might need to look at other ingredients that give similar benefits to us.”
Whatever supplier and whatever ingredient, as many have learned, supply chains can be problematic. Dainton recommended assuring that suppliers have a reserve of an ingredient or rainy-day fund for unforeseen events.
“I know we're all probably very tired of hearing people say this, but we always have to anticipate the unanticipated,” she said. “There's always going to be something that comes up that very well could affect our processing or ingredient availability for our new product. The last thing that we want to do is dip into that reserve or extra spare ingredient volume that our suppliers have to help us produce this new product.”
Like it or not, the new normal seems to include logistics problems, she said.