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Aroma in petfood palatability

If a pet won’t eat petfood, very little can be done. A pet doesn’t take into account if the nutrition is balanced, the price is right, or the packaging and marketing claims are attractive enough to secure a first purchase. 

Pets cannot ‘describe’ why they like food A but not food B, or vice versa. Therefore, pet owners need to look for pets’ behavioural signals of accepting or rejecting the foods.

First choice observation

In pets, olfaction (also known as a sense of smell) is believed to play a key role in sensory experience and petfood preference. To monitor how pets respond to food aroma specifically, ‘first choice’ is observed: how the food is first approached and consumed by the animal. First choice is a direct assessment of how much an animal is attracted by one aroma over another by smelling both portions of food. As first choice measurements are typically averaged as a proportion of total choices, statistical analysis can be used to assess the correlations between first choice and intake ratio.

Figure 1 demonstrates a strong correlation of first choice and mean intake ratio from over 300 palatability trials (both canine and feline) conducted by Kemin through third-party kennel facilities. The results indicate that if pets find the food aroma enticing, they are more likely to eat more of that food. In other words, a winning palatant should be designed to improve the aroma profile of pet foods, as a start.

Developing aroma profiles

The Maillard reaction, as a type of non-enzymatic browning, plays a major role in developing characteristic aromas of many food products under high temperatures, which includes roasted meat, toasted marshmallow, baked bread, chocolate, and so on. Domesticated pets, particularly dogs, have engaged their olfactory senses to seek those types of aromas since the early domestication of wolves. Nowadays, the influence of the Maillard reaction is present in pet food matrix flavour development. It is also the key mechanism to develop the savoury, meaty, robust aroma profiles of palatants.

The aroma portion of palatants or pet foods typically consist of hundreds of volatile compounds, with many potent odorants present in extremely low concentrations. Even the modern chromatographic methods such as gas chromatography (GC) alongwith non-specific detectors (e.g. FID), or fast GC-based electronic nose technology, are all challenged by the limited separation resolution and lack of identification specificity when applied to the analysis of complex flavour matrices such as palatants or petfood.

Understanding how Maillard technology works is crucial, as is the ability to translate this knowledge into new formulations.

For more information, visit Kemin’s website, HERE



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