Expert opinion: functional pet food ingredient trends

Functional ingredients are now being used in all kinds of pet food formulations, as larger industry trends find answers in functional options.

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Functional pet food ingredients have been a significant staple in veterinary and health-focused premium pet foods from the outset. But with nearly every pet parent now wanting to feed their pets the best, whether they gravitate towards premium pet foods or economy brands, functional ingredients are finding a home in nearly every formulation.

“There are basically two types of functional ingredients: nutritional functional and physical functional ingredients,” says Ben Arnold, manager, sales development, pet and animal nutrition for Ingredion Incorporated. “Nutritional functional ingredients, such as prebiotic fibers, are very popular and top of mind for consumers and for the manufacturers who service them,” he said. “[These types of ingredients] help support digestive well-being by both stimulating the growth/activity of beneficial bacteria and by inhibiting pathogenic bacteria in cats and dogs. Physical functional ingredients can help provide binding, texture, improved handling and processing, and appearance benefits.”

Some of the trends Arnold said Ingredion is seeing in functional ingredients are, unsurprisingly, the hot trends overall in the current pet food landscape:

Humanization of pets

“Pet owners usually value pet nutrition as high as their own needs,” says Arnold. “And what concerns pet owners, like ‘gut health,’ are often projected on to the pet. Owners typically want the best for their pets, including the food they eat.”

Limited ingredients and clean labels

“Pet owners like having transparency and knowing exactly what their pets are consuming,” says Arnold.Clean label is a growing trend in the human food and beverage space and can include shorter ingredient statements with recognizable ingredients or marketing claims such as non-GMO, traceable, organic, etc. The same follows into the pet space and also includes ‘grain-free.’”


“Nutrient-packed superfoods such as pumpkin, kale, broccoli, carrots and apples are seen as a nutrient-rich and clean label way to add additional value to pet food and treats,” says Arnold.


For the full companion article, "Functional pet food ingredients driving new formulations," published in the October 2017 issue of Petfood Industry magazine, see

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