The explosion of new pet food products on the market makes it harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. What is the secret?
Formulating to stand out
In recent years, we have witnessed an explosion of new pet food products in the market. When we look at the label and composition, many of these products look the same, with the same claims and marketing tricks.
Faced with this reality, many producers are using riskier tactics to stand out from the crowd, like using novel ingredients, untested in pet food but claiming effects taken from human research. For differentiation, we are shifting the borders of nutritional optimums, ignoring the fact that young, adult and senior animals have different nutritional needs and requirements.
What is the solution?
For a start, we need to try to improve the quality of the ingredients in the formulations. Then we should explain why it is important to use certain components that marketing departments often hate to talk about, and clearly explain their benefits both for marketing and the pet food buying consumer.
Know your ingredients and suppliers
Formulations are not a complex topic. Anyone with a nutritional background can compose a formulation that will satisfy the FEDIAF nutritional guidelines. But is this simplistic approach adequate for today’s pet food market?
The answer is, of course, no. Beyond theory, ingredients ‘know how’ is essential. Ingredients each have their own nutrient profile, origin, functionality and diverse sources – including organic, animal, vegetable or, inorganic sources – and therefore will perform differently. Sometimes ingredients with the same name and classification will be processed differently. A strong supplier relationship is critical to understand how manufacturing processes can greatly influence ingredient performance by changing their nutrient profile, format and functionality.
Responsible producers best know their ingredients and are willing to share many years of developmental and manufacturing experience to help petfood producers understand functionality. To identify responsible suppliers/producers, it is important to question both their products and processes. The most genuine ones will be able to answer questions or work in partnership to find a solution.
It is also essential to optimise nutrients and nutritional constraints. Ingredients comprise nutrients used in formulations to ensure optimum balance and nutritional adequacy for dogs and cats throughout their life stages, from kitten/puppy, to adult and senior. Ingredient digestibility and nutrient bioavailability are also important parameters.
Resist price pressure
Weighing on all these decisions is cost and that inevitably means quality. The highest cost in the production of pet food is the cost of the formulations, especially ingredient cost. There is therefore often great pressure on raw material costs as a means of reducing cost of goods sold and optimising profitability. There is a temptation for producers to go for the easiest solution, and – instead of entering price negotiations with reputable suppliers – turning to a lower cost supplier without considering the consequences.
Ingredient price will unfortunately often have a significant negative effect on finished product quality: physical quality, microbiological and toxicological quality, and/or biological quality. Poor quality kibbles often impact palatability and food intake. Microbiological and toxicological quality can greatly impact health of our pets. Biological quality affects digestibility and nutritional content and will reflect on pet’s health and wellbeing.
Remember the customer
In conclusion, to succeed in a crowded market place and differentiate your product to stand out from the crowd, remember that your final customers are pets not the pet parents. Make sure that you provide them with a well-balanced complete formula, using high quality, safe ingredients.