Pet food ingredients: companies betting big on bugs

Learn why pet food industry suppliers in Europe are investing in research and technology for using insects as a novel protein ingredient in pet food.

image by Tr3gi,
image by Tr3gi,

A few pet foods with insect protein have entered the market in Europe, as well as some pet treats there and in the US; yet regulatory, production and acceptance issues with insects have limited widespread usage. Several companies are betting big that’s about to change. For example, Bühler and insect supplier Protix formed a joint venture in early 2017 and, in July 2017, announced they’re building a plant in the Netherlands to process black soldier flies for pet food and animal feed (

Recent European regulatory updates may be an impetus: In late 2016, the EU Commission approved the use of insect protein in fish feed, a solid step. Protix sees other positive signals. “We are now marketing based on sustainability, which opens up more opportunities,” Tarique Arsiwalla, co-founder and director, told me during Petfood Forum Europe in June 2017.

Insects are earning a reputation for their low carbon footprint. Most can be fed with organic waste, can efficiently convert feed into protein and require little space to cultivate. Production is efficient, too. “Live insects are killed, then processed and become powder or lipid within minutes,” Arsiwalla said.

People are more willing to pay for sustainable products, he added, and pet food producers are also willing to pay a little more for insect protein because of changing consumer opinions. “It becomes a strength for companies working to be transparent,” Arsiwalla said.

Protix received additional funding in June 2017 and is supplying its insect protein to five pet food brands on the market in 12 European countries, with five more brands in the works. Trovet, which launched a therapeutic dry dog food with Protix’s insect protein in 2015, now has a prescription wet dog food, too, and a cat food in development.

Though approval of insects for pet food in the giant US market seems a ways off, signs point to this novel protein source soon reaching a tipping point worldwide.

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