Antioxidants: turning to natural solutions

Synthetic antioxidants are widely used to protect pet food ingredients. However, the demand for natural antioxidants has increased tremendously over the past decade.

The quest for clean labels

Today, pet owners are becoming more and more engaged when shopping for pet products. Increasingly concerned by the quality of the food they buy for their four-legged family members, they are now taking a closer look at the labels of pet food products. They expect pet food brands to use ‘clean’ ingredients that will preserve the food and health of their beloved animal.

Pet food manufacturers thus try to eliminate all additives and ingredients that have a chemical sounding name, and will be seen as being artificial to the consumer. Antioxidants are no exception.

What is oxidation?

Fats and oils are essential constituents of dry pet foods. They contribute to the flavour, nutritional value, texture and palatability of the pet food product. However, fats and oils are highly sensitive to oxidation processes. Lipid oxidation is a complex process that cannot be stopped or reversed. It can only be slowed down with the help of antioxidants.

When oxidation occurs, fatty acids react with free radicals, and ‘off’ flavours and odours are created. Oxidation also alters the structure of essential fatty acids and vitamins in a way that makes them less nutritional to the pet.

Moreover, the source of unpleasant odours caused by rancidity will be perceived by pet owners as a sign of poor quality, or harmful for their animals’ health.
Therefore, controlling oxidation from raw materials to the final pet food is crucial to ensure the quality of pet food.

Why use antioxidants?

Oxidation can be caused by many external and internal factors. Heat, light, oxygen, humidity or pro-oxidants can cause oxidation. Oxidation happens at almost every step of the pet food production. Once this oxidation mechanism has started, there is no way to stop it. It can only be slowed down.
 
To delay oxidative reactions, antioxidants should be added as early as possible to raw materials, and then regularly all along the kibble manufacturing process.

Antioxidants are vital to ensure the preservation of the organoleptic and nutritional properties of the product during its shelf life.

Freshness, naturally

Today, the most common antioxidants used in pet food are BHA, BHT and propylgallate, all of them being synthetic.

Yet natural solutions are available in the market. Indeed, various molecules from plants are currently under investigation for their potential antioxidant properties.

Researchers at Videka have confirmed the efficacy of several natural extracts in various pet food applications. Moreover, they have found that their ability to delay oxidation is even higher when they are combined.
Besides their efficiency to protect pet food from oxidation, new natural solutions must combine all the properties of the synthetic solutions to successfully replace them. Pets do not compromise when it comes to the taste and smell of their food. It is thus legitimate to wonder if going from synthetic antioxidants, which are generally odourless, to natural antioxidants, which may have more marked smells, affects pet food palatability.

Here too, Videka has demonstrated with cats and dogs that the palatability of diets containing its natural solutions is equal to that of diets containing classical synthetic antioxidants.

Plant based antioxidants are an excellent solution to naturally preserve both a pet food’s quality and the pet’s tasting experience. Using the synergy of natural extracts to improve oxidative stability of pet food is the future of shelf life solutions.

Author

Sandra Grossmann

Director Business Development, Videka
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