Trends are, generally speaking, what marks the path of innovation and growth in companies. In the petfood industry, alternative fruits, vegetables and proteins are becoming more prevalent.
On this subject, a spokesperson for the US Highbush Blueberry Council said: “A few years ago there was very little fruit in pet products. Back then, the idea of fruits and vegetables in pet food for cats and dogs seemed unusual, yet intriguing, to many in the industry.”
More fruits among the components of petfood
Fruit as an ingredient is a relatively new category in the content of petfood; it has been added to classic ingredients embodying the concept of health, since it is proven that the nutrients and fibre of fruit increase the overall nutritional value and, in some cases, improve the flavour, texture, colour and control of moisture.
Furthermore, these ingredients allow you to take advantage of inherent nutraceutical or phytonutrient qualities, particularly in fruits rich in antioxidants.
More vegetables among components of petfood
Vegetables are currently being incorporated into petfood recipes as they offer significant nutritional benefits. This change occurs essentially because there are certain nutrients that animals cannot obtain from ingredients coming from animals.
Accompanying the trend of choosing organic and low-processed products, the market is replacing the adhesion of synthetic vitamins and minerals with those that can be obtained from organic fruits, vegetables, and natural supplements. Vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants can also help pets overcome and fight serious diseases, such as cancer.
Common fruits and vegetables
The fruits and components most often being used are strawberry, raspberry and blueberry puree, since they are rich in fibre, which dogs and cats can reap the benefits of.
Apple and its dried version, due to its high fibre value, as well as its water content, helps to maintain humidity in wet foods.
From early 2019, citrus fibre used in the production of petfood had increased by 437 percent.
The vegetables and their components being used the most today are:
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli or kale, for their high content of calcium, potassium and magnesium
- Carrots and celery
Alternative plant proteins
Dogs and cats are considered carnivores, so meat is an essential component of their diet. However, this doesn’t always have to originate from an animal. In the United States, work has been done on injecting genes from animal muscle proteins into microbes like yeast, so that they can be fed and fermented. This results in proteins nutritionally identical to those from meat.
In parallel, pets that are allergic to conventional ingredients are pushing the development of exotic proteins to continue to please pets’ taste buds while improving their health.
Although it is true that, like people, animals need fruits and vegetables in their daily diets to ensure they are balanced and nutritious, when it comes to replacing a percentage of meat products with more vegetables and fruits, a problem arises: the sustainability.
The petfood industry is a fundamental part of the chain of sustainability and circular economy, due to the use of meat by-products considered waste and unsuitable for human consumption. Manufacturers use the parts of animals that humans do not consume to produce pet food, since, despite being ‘waste’ to humans, they are nutrient-packed components.
For instance, poultry fat is commonly used in petfood to add calories and flavour chicken. The human consumption of these animals leaves internal organs, feathers and many other parts unconsumed. If they weren’t largely used to make petfood, these parts would form an unthinkable amount of waste.
That being said, it can be affirmed that, yes, fruits and vegetables are essentially necessary in the feeding of pets, and their increase and incorporation are beneficial for the general health and wellbeing of domestic animals.
Even so, industry’s major challenge will be to find a new destination or purpose for the waste from human meat, or a way to coexist with the increase in vegetable ingredients in the petfood market.
It should be noted that companies in the industry have a responsibility, in a way, to educate consumers about the changes and improvements they make in their products and food. They can do this through their networks and packaging, and by providing accurate information to local sellers and retailers who are closest to the end consumer.
However, while pet owners increasingly have a preference for plant ingredients, of organic and natural origin, the reason for this is they believe it will be most beneficial for their pets. The question that then arises, is: will it improve the health of pets? Will it present fewer digestive problems? Will it have more energy? After all, the function of the food formula is what is really important.
In any case, components of plant origin are much more than a mere trend, but rather a beneficial addition to the health and wellbeing of pets.