Pet Food Specialty Blends
26 May 2021
By Ryan Hicks
Director of Sales
As required by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), all pet foods are complete and balanced, meaning the product contains all required nutrients in the correct ratios. How then does a pet food manufacturer distinguish itself from the dozens of competing pet food products on the shelves of actual and online stores? They provide novel and functional ingredients that exceed minimum requirements toward optimal nutrition and ideal overall health and well-being of our beloved pets.
Functional Ingredient Delivery
The challenge with adding functional ingredients to pet food is that many of them must be added post-extrusion, or are susceptible to contaminants, or require unique sanitation methods to ensure the safety of the product for both Fido and his pet parents. Though complicated in its production and delivery, specialty blends enable functional ingredients to be safely applied to pet foods.
Specialty Blends include vitamins, minerals and functional ingredients that are combined in very small inclusion rates to ensure they are dispersed consistently and safely throughout the final pet food. Because of their unique needs, there are a few different kinds of Specialty Blends – Post-Extrusion Blends, Probiotics, Raw Diets, Microbial-Sensitive Blending and Micro Batch Sizes.
The extrusion process involves high heat, pressure, moisture and shear force that can degrade numerous nutrients or modify the nutrient into an unavailable form. To overcome this processing hurdle, pet food manufacturers coat kibble with palatants and other select functional ingredients after heat processing. However, accurate dosing and dispersion of these ingredients can be a challenge. Creating a blend of dry palatant and functional ingredients and adding them post-extrusion is a safe, effective way to deliver low-inclusion, temperature-sensitive ingredients onto the food.
Probiotics are living bacteria that may provide health benefits to the host. As living bacteria, most probiotics cannot survive the extrusion process. In effort to protect the living bacteria, as well as to ensure its even application over the entire pet food, probiotics are best delivered with a dry palatant.
By definition, raw diets cannot go through a cooking process, such as extrusion or retort. Even if they did, many of the fruits and vegetables would lose much of their nutritional value. Delivered in their natural state, raw ingredients can be more easily identified visually by pet parents, contributing to its perception as healthy, whole foods. Raw diets require an ingredient supply chain designed to safeguard the ingredients against pathogenic bacteria. It can be difficult to find suppliers willing to handle ingredients that are particularly prone to pathogens.
Certain ingredients, such as rice and psyllium seed husks, are more difficult to keep clean than others, increasing their susceptibility to pathogens. Trouw Nutrition handles these microbial-sensitive blends by employing a positive release program for salmonella and other pathogens. This means the ingredients are tested for salmonella and enterobacteriaceae (ebac) and the ingredients are not released for use unless a negative test result is received. A positive release program is just one of the many precautions employed in Trouw Nutrition’s industry-leading quality assurance program. The extensive quality assurance methods employed by Trouw Nutrition uniquely qualify it to handle these specialty blends.
Micro Batch Sizes
Blends can also earn a specialty blend status by their size. Not all pet food premix and blend manufacturers are equipped to handle small batch sizes (<500 kg), but Micro Batch Sizes are paramount to the success of start-ups and companies testing new products. Only a small amount of blend is needed to test a new product, so if the manufacturer is unable to decrease the batch size while maintaining proper ingredient proportions, product will needlessly be disposed of and the company conducting the experiment will pay more for the blend than is necessary. A Micro Batch, on the other hand, provides a more affordable and sustainable option by not needlessly disposing of excess product.
Specialty blends provide pet food manufacturers with a manufacturing solutions that promotes flexibility and nimbleness needed to be successful. They enable pet food manufacturers to differentiate their product from the competition and earn their status as a diet worthy of the furriest member of the family.