Home Petfood Process Extrusion process Innovation in the petfood and treat production

Innovation in the petfood and treat production


This planned expansion is based on a global increase in pet adoption, increased awareness of the importance of nutrition for animal health and a continuing trend to view pets as a member of the family. Thanks to these factors, they have created great opportunities for petfood producers particularly in specialty markets.

These markets include premium, natural, grain-free, organic, or protein-enriched food, alongside wellness niches focusing on skin care and allergy management, digestive health, urinary tract treatments, puppy and kitten care, or even senior pet nutrition. Within these niches, there are also micro-markets dedicated to specific breeds of dogs and cats or activities. These opportunities, combined with the emergence of new technologies, facilitate levels of creativity and innovation previously unseen, for petfood and treat manufacturers.

Twin screw extrusion opens a door to new opportunities

Not long ago, the common practice for petfood production aiming at cats and dogs was to mix basic grains with water, to process them in a single screw extruder and coat the finished product with oil and essential and tasty nutrients. But with the growing sophistication of the market and emergence of studies supporting the importance of nutrition for dogs and cats, has led to the adoption of twin screw extrusion technology, taking over from single screw extrusion.

This development can be explained by a number of reasons. Twin screw extruders allow for complex, high-level processing tasks precisely. They allow for greater process flexibility owing to screw speed and production functions, and their ability to have different processing functions happening at once.

We are given greater control of processing factors (such as inputs of heat, shear or mechanical energy) which improve the quality and consistency of products and protecting volatile ingredients. Introducing new ingredients for petfood manufacturing has proven that twin screw extruders can process well a variety of raw materials and mix formulations that single screw extruders struggle with, without additional equipment or readjustments.

Market demands no longer call for ‘meat-like’ food, reflected by the sophisticated range of petfood ingredients. This can include vegetables – such as squash, beans, carrots or broccoli – alternative proteins – such as yeast, nuts, algae or insects – and fruits – such as blue and lingonberries, melons or apples. Feed with a high meat content remains popular. Other areas refer to nutraceuticals for pets, which can provide nutrients, vitamins or medication.  

Although the range of these new products can lead to high profit margins, they require the ability to scale up the process and precise processing control. The twin screw extruder has become indispensable, for petfood manufacturers looking to meet these new demands for premium petfood, clear labelling, healthy ingredients, advanced nutrition and other attributes mimicking the appearance of human food.

Development of new products for specialised markets

Producers need to be aware of the niche market they are aiming for, before developing products that appeal pet owners. Petfood and treats are now expected to offer animal welfare benefits, healthy ingredients, and quality protein sources.

These niche products, therefore, have additional requirements that need to be tested, evaluated, and refined during the process. An R&D centre will handle design, testing, prototyping, small scale batching and industrial simulation.

In this particular process, the twin screw extruder has the flexibility to quickly change production parameters – such as screw configuration, barrel length, residence time, shear, expansion – and process controls – such as liquid and vapor injection, flow channels, heating and cooling – in order to quickly adjust the properties of the products.

This also allows for tests to be completed with the least possible residue, an important factor when working with high-quality ingredients, vitamins or nutraceuticals. While real-time operating conditions can be monitored from the operator panel, all data is logged for future review and analysis.

Twin screw extruders possess features that make it accessible, easy to clean, as well as being time-saving, which allows developers to test various recipes during each session. Manufacturers will also experience its benefits, when products are moved to a production environment, as it allows processing of several different products on the same line, with minimal downtime dedicated to product changes. This is crucial when supplying products to these small, niche markets.

From the laboratory to the production line

Once a product has been developed in the test centre, the next step is to be able to scale it, to ensure the product that comes from the extruder on the production line has the same characteristics as the product from the R&D unit. The design of the extruder is important in this.

Clextral’s extruders have proven homothetic designs to ensure predictable scaling. Producers should be relying on the specialised knowledge, experience, technical assistance and training provided by their chosen extrusion equipment suppliers to optimise product quality and consistency on the production line. These extrusion experts are continuously testing and improving processes and recipes to support their customers, so they need to be acknowledged as key players in the development team.

Preconditioners improve product quality and increase production

Preconditioners have long been used to increase the extruder output by pre-processing the grain and initiating starch gelatinisation. This process decreases the required residence time within the extruder which allows for a higher production volume with less wear on the equipment. Now, preconditioners are used to offer additional benefits:

  • Initial mixing of ingredients to ensure uniform distribution and hydration before extrusion
  • Improved thermal energy transfer to the product to preserve its nutritional properties
  • For products with a high meat content, introducing the meat in the preconditioner provides a longer residence time for mixing with dry ingredients to ensure homogeneity of the products

Twin screw extrusion technology can meet present and future needs

Twin screw extrusion offers a whole host of advantages for petfood producers, as this technology provides a complex mixing and processing system for the production of sophisticated products within a hygienic, flexible and infinitely repeatable platform.

Additionally, given that the market is constantly evolving, the twin screw extruder can be easily reconfigured for the processing of new products that meet consumer expectations.

Primary benefits:

  • Greater consistency in production and product quality control
  • Maximum productivity thanks to continuous processing, more agile start-up and shutdown between faster product changes, and advanced automation
  • Unbeatable flexibility with the ability to process a wide variety of raw materials
  • Optimized environmental impact owing to water and energy conservation
  • Simple, easy maintenance and cleaning

How to succeed in specialty petfood and treat markets

It is important to monitor trends, consumer desires, and competition to determine the products demanded by the petfood market. Healthy food or treats do not necessarily guarantee success, if it fails to satisfy the needs or attract the interest of consumers.

Thanks to the twin screw extrusion platform, producers have flexible development and production tools capable of optimising their processes and facilitating their adaptation to changing market demands. This technology not only enables producers to capitalise on emerging trends and opportunities, but also ensures their ability to succeed in the pet food market.

For more information on Clextral visit their website, HERE.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here