Continuing a multi-year trend at Global Pet Expo, freeze-dried or air-dried raw pet foods, treats and toppers predominated among new products in 2023. Global Pet Expo was held March 22 – 24, 2023 in Orlando, Florida, USA.
Freeze-dried and air-dried pet consumables meet consumer demands for raw meat ingredients without the refrigeration needs, contamination risks and other aspects of fresh raw pet foods. Freeze-drying pet food ingredients makes them self-stable without using high temperatures that can degrade vitamins and other nutritional chemicals in pet foods. Air-drying pet food ingredients does involve heating, so it may serve as a dedicated kill step. Both freeze-drying and air-drying result in a pet food that can be easier to transport, store and handle for both retailers and pet owners.
“You still need to wash your hands afterwards,” Jacqueline Taylor, managing director or the New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co., told Petfood Industry. “You still need to be safe with it. But you don't have that mess, and it's easy to pour into a bowl.”
Environmental benefits of freeze-dried pet foods
Another benefit of freeze-dried pet foods is that they are lighter weight than other raw products or conventional wet and dry products, since the water has been removed. Because of this, freeze-dried and air-dried pet foods can be easier for older pet owners to carry in from their cars, Taylor said. Being lighter also makes the products less expensive to ship and likewise better for the environment since it takes less fuel to move them.
One animal used in New Zealand Natural’s pet foods, the common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), makes the pet foods even better for the environment. People introduced the brushtail possum into New Zealand from Australia. In the ecosystems of New Zealand, the brushtail became an invasive species.
In the wild, the brushtail possum eats the leaves of the trees and berries, so the animal has a healthy diet leading to high-quality protein in its meat, Taylor said.
“But it's killing all our forests,” she said. “In New Zealand, the government encourages people to hunt the possum to get rid of it, but for our pets the protein is phenomenal.”
Freeze-dried pet foods with therapeutic benefits
Helping eradicate invasive species is one way a pet food brand can make its products stand out. Boss Dog was another pet food brands with new freeze-dried products at Global Pet Expo. To differentiate their products, Boss Dog focuses on providing more than basic nutrition and the benefits of raw.
“It's a very crowded space,” Mike Hom, western regional manager for Boss Dog told Petfood Industry. “However, when you look at where the industry is headed, especially independent pet, they are looking for digestive solutions for their dogs. You look at any Boss Dog products, we're really focusing on the probiotics in all of our foods and treats.”
Pet owners themselves have become aware of the health benefits of probiotics in their own diets, so they are looking for that in their pets’ diets too, he said. Boss Dog meets that demand for probiotics along with the demand for raw meat ingredients.
Freeze-dried raw pet food trend
Pet owners want raw meat in their pet’s diets because of beliefs that unprocessed ingredients provide better nutrition or are more natural than processed pet foods, such as kibble and conventional wet pet food. Fresh, raw pet food companies often look to high-pressure processing (HPP) to pasteurize their products and comply with food safety laws. High-pressure processing works by creating high pressure uniformly around a pet food container, usually in a sealed tank of water. That pressure is transferred instantly and equally throughout the raw pet food. Under this high pressure, disease-causing microorganisms and food-spoiling enzymes are inactivated.
Nevertheless, pet owners still need to follow more steps to properly store, handle and serve raw-meat-based products, compared to conventional kibble. Raw pet foods need to be kept frozen to prevent spoilage to maintain palatability, even after high-pressure processing to eliminate pathogens. When consumers handle the products, people must take care to avoid smearing surfaces with raw meat and potentially forming a breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria. Freeze-dried pet foods help avoid these challenges by making the meat shelf-stable and easier to handle.
New freeze-dried pet foods introduced at Global Pet Expo
These freeze-dried pet consumables were among those introduced at Global Pet Expo.
A Better Treat - A Better Dog Food
Foodynamics - Freeze-Dried Meat & Produce Donuts
Green Juju - Freeze-Dried Raw Food
Green Juju’s Freeze-Dried Raw Food comes in four different formulas: bison, beef, pork, and rabbit and duck liver.
Instinct Raw Boost Mixers (available in Healthy Energy, Adults, Adults 7+ and Calming Support) contain nutrients that support pet's vitality, replenish energy and fuel daily activity.
Made by Nacho - Freeze-Dried Ahi Tuna and Wild Alaskan Salmon Cat Treats
Chef Bobby Flay and his cat, Nacho, partnered with leading pet nutritionists to create Made by Nacho cat food and treat products.
Montana Dog Food Co. - Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food, Treats & Supplements
Montana Dog Food Co.’s Freeze-dried raw food, treats, and veterinarian-formulated supplements are crafted with only the highest quality and responsibly sourced ingredients. A portion of proceeds go towards the Warriors & Quiet Waters Foundation.
Pisces USA - Aqua Natural Freeze-Dried Fish Food Range
Australia’s leading fish and shrimp food range is now available in the U.S. Developed by leading Australian veterinarians and nutritionists, the Aqua Natural Freeze-Dried Range is made using advanced pharmaceutical grade techniques to ensure all nutrients are “locked in” while retaining the natural flavors.
Vital Essentials - Freeze-Dried Raw Dog and Cat Food
Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Rat Dog and Cat Food has been reimagined and rebranded.
INSTINCT PET FOOD - Raw Boost Mixers Calming Support
A freeze-dried raw topper, Raw Boost Mixers Calming Support, features ingredients like cage-free turkey plus functional ingredients like valerian root, passion flower and tryptophan to support a calm demeanor and help reduce stress.