Novel proteins should have an increasing role in pet food and treats, but using more novel protein ingredients will only be successful if the industry properly educates consumers, according to Mark Mendal, founder of consulting firm Pet Proteins, speaking at Petfood Forum 2016 on April 19.
Using novel protein ingredients can benefit pets in several ways, including improving health and alleviating allergies, Mendal noted.
Mendal cited the statistic that 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are obese, driving the need for functional pet foods. He said that novel proteins are ideal ingredients in these pet food diets because they contain on average 50% fewer calories, 80% less fat and the same amount of protein as conventional proteins.
Additionally, many pets suffer from food allergies, which Mendal said is typically due to an immune response to exposure to the same type of protein over time. Increasing the role of novel proteins in pet foods and treats allows manufacturers to expand the portfolio of proteins offered in their formulas and provide a wider variety for these allergy-suffering pets. Since pets have not currently been exposed to these novel proteins, like kangaroo or venison, for as long as they generally have for conventional proteins like chicken, diets with novel proteins have a lower risk of allergies, he said.
Aside from the benefits to pets, using novel proteins in pet food also has benefits in terms of sustainability. According to Mendal, animal agriculture contributes about 51% to CO2 emissions, while it utilizes 56% of water to grow feed for these livestock animals. However, using certain novel proteins can help to reduce this impact on the environment. Crickets, for example, produce 100 times less greenhouse gasses and use 2,000 times less water on a per-pound basis when compared to cows, he said.
So, why is the industry not fully vested in novel proteins already?
There are a few challenges in practice with supply and demand, Mendal said. First, the conventional protein supply generally comes from large industrial suppliers, many of which are concentrated in the US. But, Mendal said the novel protein supply comes from from small, independent processors spread all around the world. So, it is not only more difficult to source novel proteins, but the smaller supply means that they typically also cost more, driving up the price of the pet food product.
Mendal emphasized the fact that, in order to increase the role of novel proteins in pet food and treats, it is critical to teach consumers the benefits of these proteins compared to the conventional proteins they are already familiar with, as well as why they are worth the higher price point. “We need to educate the consumer to make this whole thing work,” he concluded.
Mark Mendal speaking on increasing the role of novel proteins.