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We see more and more new dog food ingredients. A novel dog food ingredient means it is new, different or unusual for its purpose.
Newly introduced dog food concepts can seem strange at first, bold or even bizarre (like dried ears)… and then we either don't buy the product or get used to it (to me it became perfectly normal household practice to have dried ears and stuffed hoofs laying around). But on this page I won't focus on the actual products, but on the new dog food ingredients that are put into products.
Novel and functional ingredients are the engine in the marketing campaigns of pet food manufacturers for super healthy dog food. 'New' in and of itself has market appeal. We see the claims on the packages which sound like 'natural', 'fresh', 'extends life' or 'enhanced nutritional value'. Depending on the country the product is distributed, the rules for regulatory clearance and labeling allowances are more or less strict. Ingredient inclusion policies in the US and EU are well established.
The advertising claims may sound like music to your ears. But marketers cannot be considered an objective source of information. You, as a dog owner, might wonder whether this novel ingredient is beneficial to your pooch. What is the link between an ingredient and a purpose?
For now, let's focus on the supposed beneficial effects of these novel ingredients. Why buy those new products? Why are these emerging on the market anyway?
The introduction of novel and functional ingredients is often demanded by pet owners themselves (pull-mechanism). However, global developments also result in ingredient changes in commercial dog food we did not ask for (push-mechanism). Continue reading to see a few examples of both categories of market drivers.
PULL mechanisms refer to what we asked for ourselves as a result of demands for convenience, health concerns, increasing pet pampering and humanization of dog food.
We continue to see an increasing demand by dog owners for improved quality and human grade ingredients in pet food. We want the best for our furry family members and we ask for dog food that is fresh, convenient and is enriched with healthy supplements (omega fatty acids in dog food) or nutraceuticals (like prebiotics and probiotics).
We also see more ingredients in pet food that are not new to us, but are new to them! Examples of these are new sorts of vegetables and fruits, pasta, gravy and puddings.
This is a completely different story as the benefit for our pets is not the first driver in these market drivers.
PUSH mechanisms refer to what just gets pushed on our plates (or more specifically… your dog's bowl) due to increased care for the environment, recycling and even oil shortages.
Multiple factors are driving this interest, such as the combination of continued rising demand for oil, political uncertainty over oil producing nations and the need to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. This is getting more and more into the spotlight. Bio-fuel production where edible by-products are produced may become of interest to the pet food industry. By-products from cereals, rape and sugar producing plants may become the next generation in new dog food ingredients.
One question though before we decide to use these by-products as dog food: Isn't this waste? If it isn't produced for food then the end-product cannot be for food. When the intention is to grow cereals etc. for fuel, then the by-products must be considered waste!
Well, let's just follow future developments in this.
Historically, the dog food industry has always used many of those ingredients that are surplus to the requirements of human food and other industries.
Did you ever buy too many groceries and you had to throw away stuff not even touched? Well, this happens to me more often than I like to admit. In developed countries an average household is estimated to throw away about 550 lbs (or 250 kg) of potentially nutritious matter. About half of this is avoidable and is the result of over-buying. These can still be good ingredients for dog food. The same is true for recycling of bakery and confectionery by-products.
The acceptability by dog owners is questionable though these ingredients actually are kind of like table scraps. You may want to read about the differences in digestion between humans and dogs, one of which explains why dogs can eat of the street without getting sick. However, keeping constant (safe) quality and ensure traceability, is perhaps a bigger hurdle to take!
For example, declining fish stocks may result in shortages of omega-3 or it will become too expensive to use it in dog food. Alternative sources of omega-3 - such as microalgae - are already receiving attention.
Microalgae are grown using a technology developed at the Institute des Sciences de la mer (ISMER) of the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR).
The world is an ever changing place. Changes in demand from dog owners and changes in supply of ingredients will require the pet food industry to be flexible and remain highly innovative. Novel and new dog food ingredients will require careful evaluation to confirm nutrient supply, traceability to origin and safety prior to their use.
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