How fresh innovation is boosting pet health?
Over half the world’s population now owns a pet, with cats and dogs the most popular companions. Today’s pets are often treated on a par with cherished family members! Just as pet owners scrutinise the nutritional values and sustainability credentials of their own food, they also want the finest for their faithful friends. They are engaged by powerful messages supporting prolonged pet health and preservation of the planet. How can pet food manufacturers respond to this humanisation trend? And importantly, how can they convince owners to transition to a different food?
The answer actually comes naturally – in the form of the black soldier fly (Latin name: (Hermetia illucens) and its use in innovative pet food formulations. Protix is at the forefront of black soldier fly (BSF)-based ingredients and is launching fresh PureeX®, an appetising fresh insect meat. This ingredient offers all the health benefits of insect protein and lipids and promises maximum nutritional value with minimum processing. Moreover, in common with all Protix’s insect-based ingredients, fresh PureeX boasts a low footprint. It is spot on for pet food manufacturers seeking to tap into the humanisation trend with fresh, healthy and sustainable pet food.
In the crowded and competitive pet food market, global spending is expected to increase annually by 11.11 percent (CAGR 2023-2027) according to Statista. This is mainly driven by demographic changes such as the increase in the number of single-person households, and pet food humanisation: adoring pet parents are prepared to spend on premium products that are good for their pets and good for the planet.
Fresh ingredients feed into consumer desire to treat their beloved companions with the same benefits they buy for themselves. To produce fresh PureeX, insects are processed quickly in a simple process with a minimum number of steps. The rapid processing of minced insect meat results in a product which is low in biogenic amines, a commonly used measure of freshness. It makes fresh PureeX a safe, authentic and honest ingredient with minimal processing-induced damage to valuable nutrients.
Happy and healthy
Health claims are also a big draw for consumers, and an important differentiator for pet manufacturers. Fresh PureeX offers all the health benefits of ingredients derived from the black soldier fly. Initial studies point to good digestibility, an anti-microbial effect, and a stronger antioxidant activity than commonly used pet food ingredients. It potentially thus contributes to pet longevity and wellbeing.
Antioxidants for dogs and cats are on-trend in pet food. These are elements within food that help protect the body against damage caused by pro-oxidants such as free radicals. They are essential in maintaining wellbeing and protecting against diseases, as well as premature ageing. Including fresh PureeX in cat or dog food thus delivers an added health benefit versus chicken or fish meal and may result in pets staying healthier for longer.
Protix has collaborated on two lab studies which point to the added benefit of the antioxidant activity of PureeX. Completed in 2020, the first study involved a series of lab tests to assess PureeX and another insect-based ingredient on their own. One of the tests shows that PureeX was able to suppress the negative effect of pro-oxidant molecules by 90 percent. Chicken meal and fish meal, on the other hand, may even trigger the production of the harmful pro-oxidant molecules by 5-15 percent.
In 2022, Protix completed a second study with pet food manufacturer Yora. The aim of this lab test was to assess insect-based cat and dog food. When compared against other commercially available top-end and veterinary-approved cat foods, a better antioxidant effect was identified. An important measure here is Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) production inhibition. ROS are a type of unstable molecule that can induce oxidative damage. The results show that the insect ingredient samples resulted in an approximately 80 percent suppression of the negative effects of pro-oxidant molecules versus the control sample; in non-insect-based cat food, approximately 70 percent cellular ROS production suppression was reported. The figures for dogs are comparable to other premium and super premium brands (insect-based and non-insect-based) of dog foods in the market, which is an outstanding result.
Creating a lower footprint with insects
Sustainability is high on the agenda for many consumers, whether buying for themselves or their pets. With a low ‘pawprint’, PureeX scores highly here, which is largely down to the amazing powers of the industrious black soldier fly it’s derived from. The black soldier fly has a remarkable capacity to turn organic waste into valuable biomass. As a ‘super composter’, the flies will devour virtually anything, allowing for a circular food chain that exploits organic waste streams that would otherwise be unused. They require little space, land or water, and significantly reduce the impact on global warming in comparison with other sources of protein and lipids. PureeX reduces the CO2 footprint by 24-fold compared with poultry meat which is often used in pet food as a high-moisture protein source (0.439 CO2 equivalent for PureeX compared with 10.33 CO2 equivalent for poultry meat). This impressive figure follows a recently published independent Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) conducted by the highly regarded Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik (DIL). PureeX thus helps to address consumer concerns about deforestation, water scarcity, global warming, and loss of biodiversity. And it’s tasty too!
Palatable for pets and owners
Pet parents may laugh as their dog or cat attempts to catch a passing bug. Yet the idea of actively feeding insects can be a barrier. Manufacturers need to overcome consumers’ fear of seeing identifiable insect components in food. In fact, the insects in fresh PureeX are incorporated in purée form, and the resulting products resemble regular extruded dry kibble, dry, semi-moist, oven-baked snacks or wet food. As any pet owner knows, switching to a new brand of food is not a decision taken lightly. End product palatability is very important because whatever the appealing nutritional value of a product, if a pet simply turns up its nose, the consumer is dissatisfied, and the brand suffers harm. Palatability tests show excellent results, especially dogs like it.
Trusted to deliver
Fresh PureeX adds a new dimension in freshness and makes it easier to transition to a low-footprint pet food that is genuinely natural and healthy. Major brands are already incorporating fresh PureeX in their wet and dry formulations and reaping the benefits of a sustainable ingredient that is good for pets and for the planet. One challenge facing manufacturers is the reliable volume supply of consistently high-quality ingredients. With state-of the-art facilities on an unprecedented scale, and international expansion plans underway, Protix is leading the way in insect-based nutrition. The company is on the verge of changing the world with insect-based ingredients and promises excellent availability and an appealing price-quality ratio.
Flying high into the future
The black soldier fly is hailed as the missing link in the food and feed system, and key in bringing the food system back into balance with nature. Harnessing the fly’s incredible ability to turn organic waste into high-quality proteins and lipids can reduce the footprint of our food system and provide much-needed nutrition to the world sustainably.
The black soldier fly can be processed into a range of ingredients for both wet and dry pet food formulations. As the latest addition to a diverse portfolio already consisting of ProteinX®, LipidX® and frozen PureeX, fresh PureeX helps to deliver pet food that is sustainable and beneficial for pets. Production involves minimal processing, and much-loved pets can tuck into a tasty treat as nature intended. At the same time, their adoring parents can enjoy a pet full of energy and vibrancy, while manufacturers can rely on the same premium quality time after time. Fresh PureeX marks a further step towards restoring the natural order of the world through sustainable, natural ingredients.
Article contributed by Suzanne van den Eshof, Marketing and business development director, Protix, Netherlands