Although Covid-19 caused considerable disruption to the food supply chain, the petfood industry continued to grow exponentially. The challenges for this, lay in how to meet this continually growing demand.
The growing demand for petfood and growing macro trends are consequently resulting in a higher demand for high-quality food. This undoubtedly presents many production challenges that, sooner rather than later, the market will need to face in order to respond to consumer trends and requests.
Many of the tests are done to certify, develop or select a petfood over others, are also carried out on humans. The taste systems are considerably different between animals and humans. Humans can have up to 10,000 taste buds, while dogs have about 1700 and cats, only 500. Therefore, taking this into consideration, the sense of taste of these animals comes primarily from smell. Dogs have up to 300,000,000 olfactory receptor cells in their snouts, compared to the 6,000,000 humans have. Also, the part of your brain dedicated to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times larger than ours.
It is true that behavioural or palatability studies can be carried out on an ongoing basis with animals to determine the positive or negative effects of changes applied to processing, raw materials, aromas and/or presentation. However, they are not very effective, since the results they always produce are absolutely binary in nature, such as ‘accepted or not’, ‘preferred or not’, so the conclusions obtained from this type of study will always be limited.
The data produced by experimental studies based on human senses are more efficient methods to optimise the taste and texture of pet food, among others.
As in any industry, when a level of quality is reached, certain challenges begin to seem the most difficult to face, and requires a lot of research, advances, technology and studies.
Existing challenges in the petfood industry
Most petfood or treat formulae use a wide variety of ingredients, from vegetables, beef, poultry, and fish, as well as powders, by-products, grains, and legumes. Inevitably, there are factors such as temperature, humidity and pressure that fluctuate between the production of one batch and another, which ends up affecting the final composition. To a greater or lesser extent, this causes a somewhat unpredictable use of the ingredients.
As with most processed foods, making large volumes of production that are consistent with each other can be challenging. This typically happens in batch cooking and production methods. Presenting inconsistencies in the final product can be a great disadvantage for brands, since a consumer who begins to mistrust the quality of the product that he is giving his pet is, most likely, going to be no longer a customer.
As part of the fast-moving consumer goods industry, petfood manufacturers are in constant production. If you have a batch production with several steps that must be carried out manually, efficiency and productivity are reduced since, instead of producing in parallel, it is produced in series.
In a volume-dependent industry such as petfood, every second of additional production can make a difference.
It is advisable to automate as much of the process as possible, since this provides the assurance that the actions are carried out as they should. We also find it very useful to automate control systems, to guarantee that those factors that can alter the final product such as temperature, steam and humidity always remain at the desired level.
Currently, at the height of the importance in the petfood industry are the premium food and the humanisation of pets, therefore it is essential to use in our favour the predisposition of people to pay a little more money to obtain a product from nutritional quality that does not present alterations or modifications in the daily diet of your pets. Consistency is directly related to the growth or increase in demand for one or another food.
Nowadays, every client has the right to be selective, and pet owners are not far behind: they want to choose a product and that it is in charge of providing nutrition, well-being, care and quality, a somewhat demanding equation.
It is true that with the appropriate machinery, production processes can be more efficient and accurate, but without a doubt, we will have to continue researching and studying how to improve our final product to not only reach more people but also to satisfy those who already choose each brand in particular.