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Palatable for Pets

Pet Health Pet Health
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Considering their sharp sensory skills, development of natural extracts in forms acceptable to pets is the newest trend.

The emphasis on pet health has always been high, with more consumers taking that extra step to maintain the good health of their companion animals and protect them from environmental stress. And the pet has a say on which healthy foods, treats and supplements they are willing to consume.

Shaheen Majeed, marketing director with Sabinsa Corp. in Utah (with offices in New Jersey), noted that while the pet health industry is growing, the use of supplements has recently become more widely accepted. According to “Pet Supplements in the U.S., Edition 5” market research, a compound annual growth rate of 3.7 percent has been observed between 2010 and 2014, thus increasing the supplement market to 541 million USD in 2014. “There is a demand for natural ingredients with potential benefits that are safe to consume in different dosage forms,” Majeed said. “It makes a lot of sense that powders, pastes, gels and liquids would be more popular dosage forms, as anyone who has tried to get their dog or cat to swallow pills would attest.”

Bill Bookout, president of the National Animal Supplement Council, a non-profit trade association, said the council’s focus is animal supplements, similar to dietary supplements for people. “These products help improve the quality of life for dogs, cats and horses. Animal supplements oftentimes mimic trends in human supplements and can provide support as a component to a complete, nutritional diet or a specific health issue. The industry is growing between 4 to 7 percent each year from various market research groups who publish data on the topic, and there is an increasing consumer focus on natural, organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) products,” he noted.

Steve Peirce, president of RIBUS, Inc. in Missouri, agreed that the pet market is growing nicely and on how it is happening. “The human influence is strong in the pet treat industry, particularly in key areas such as ‘clean labels,’ which addresses which ingredients to avoid, texture, feel in the hands, etc.; while the pet has input in the area of consumption,” he said.

“In the area of nutrition,” Peirce noted, “many contract manufacturers of human dietary supplements are also producing pet supplements because they are made with human-grade ingredients. There is a strong convergence in the nutrition sector.” According to Peirce, RIBUS’s sales increased more than 50 percent in the pet nutrition (pet supplements with Nu-RICE and Nu-FLOW) sector during 2015, “but it is difficult to separate the human sales vs. the pet sales,” he said.

Evolving Market

There has been a dramatic increase in interest in organic pet snacks, supplements, and food over the last several years, similar to the growth of the organic human food industry, according to Peirce.

Majeed added that animal health, aside from what they are genetically predisposed by breed, is largely dictated by the food and nutrients they ingest, the amount of exercise they get and the toxins to which they are exposed. “It is logical that the higher the nutritional quality of food, the healthier the animal. Recently, people have started spending more money on their pets than in the past,” he said.

He continued, “Functional supplements are targeted to many of the conditions humans themselves address, such as allergies, digestive disorders, joint health, inflammation, stress and heart health. As consumers become more used to using supplements for their own health, the natural progression is for them to extend that to their families, including the furry ones.”

Bookout confirmed that products that help maintain joint health, probiotics, omegas and immune support and GI (gastrointestinal) health all remain strong, and added that on the dog and cat side, equally as important as the product category is the delivery system and palatability. “You can have the greatest product in the world and if you cannot get the animal to accept the product readily then the consumer won’t continue to buy it. Soft chews and other innovative delivery systems with optimum palatability are increasing,” he added.

Leading the Category

“On the pet side,” noted Bookout, “the delivery system is especially important for dogs and cats because owner compliance is highly driven by acceptance from the animal. Companies such as Kemin Nutrisurance have concentrated on palatant products that meet the acceptance levels of the pets while still complying with natural guidelines. This approach hits two key areas the consumer is looking for.”

Peirce noted that bone/joint, dental/tooth, coat and skin health are strong categories that are medically related. “Products for pet weight management and aging are supporting categories.”

Not only is natural important for pet owners, but phytonutrients with adaptogenic benefits, probiotics and micronutrients used to supplement dietary sources are being sought to help improve resistance to oxidative stress and enhance pets’ quality of life during aging. “Natural supplements are preferred by consumers and holistic veterinarians,” Majeed said, and explained, “Supplements may complement medications by helping reduce the dosage of primary medication and by giving a synergistic effect.”

Sabinsa offers the following ingredients to improve pet health, and Majeed said the company is seeing a lot of interest in all of them:

• LactoSpore VG: Shelf stable probiotic of Bacillus coagulans that produces L(+) lactic acid. It plays an important role in balancing the gastrointestinal microflora and offers immunomodulatory effect.

• Boswellin VG: Extracted from the gum resin of Boswellia serrata. It significantly reduces severity of joint inflammation.

• Curcuminoids VG: Standardized extract from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, Curcuminoids VG is a unique composition of three curcuminoids mainly curcumin, bis-demethoxy curcumin, demethoxycurcumin. Curcuminoids are well recognized to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and wound-healing potential.

• VetZyme: Sabinsa’s proprietary combination of enzymes that help in proper digestion and better absorption of food. The enzymes include α-amylase, neutral protease, lipase, cellulose and lactase.

• VetPerine: Enriched from fruits of Piper nigrum and standardized to contain 95 percent piperine, VetPerine is used as a potential bioavailability enhancer.

Ongoing research in the field of pet nutrition, Majeed said, will offer new products in the future that will find applications for reducing stress from which companion animals suffer as much, if not more, than their human family members and offer antimicrobial benefits.

Continued research also supports the functional benefits of various ingredients, noted Bookout. “People are very familiar with ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin, however new ingredients like hyper-immunized egg marketed as Immuflex from Trouw Nutrition would be one example of new ingredient innovation backed by science,” he added. “In the area of palatability and preservation, there are developments that are natural mold inhibitors, which is part of new research Kemin Nutrisurance is testing.”

RIBUS’s focus is on rice hulls and bran, which are being used in place of chemicals such as magnesium stearate, monoglycerides and silicon dioxide.

Trends to Bark About

Animal supplement trends typically follow trends of humans, however Bookout said they are somewhat lagging. “I think overall consumers are becoming increasingly informed and educated about product quality and what products contain. You can also see similar trends driving the market toward more premium and super premium diets as well. Having said this, and while education is certainly a key, effectively reaching the consumer with accurate and correct information is sometimes challenging.” He added that people should not believe everything they read on the internet.

Offering nutritional benefits to pets in dosage forms readily acceptable by them is a challenge in the industry, Majeed said. “Plant extracts come with gritty colors and odors. With very sensitive and sharp sensory skills, pets do not accept natural extracts very easily. Development of natural extracts in forms acceptable to pets and fortification of pet foods is the newest trend.”

“Clean label” is huge, even for pet foods. Peirce explained, “This involves transparency, traceability and avoidance of certain ingredients (such as magnesium stearate, monoglycerides and silicon dioxide). I am seeing more grain-free products, which is a big change from the past focus on rice and lamb products. People want to move away from grain as a filler. This is where RIBUS provides grain extracts as functional alternatives to “chemistry lab sounding ingredients.” Peirce also pointed out that organics are growing rapidly in the pet arena. “This is driven by the human involvement and desire for clean labels, non-GMO, traceability, and desire for fewer chemicals in their pet’s food.”

Dosing and Delivery

The delivery system for pets is extremely important, said Bookout, “And at least as important of the function and benefits of the actual product. You could have a great product and great ingredients, but if the pet does not like the taste, the consumer will not continue buying. Soft chews in the supplement area is increasing in this category and will continue to increase along with other innovative delivery systems on the companion animal side.”

Offering natural extracts with odors and colors that are acceptable by pets is a challenge, Majeed agreed, but noted that with more than 25 years of experience in the field of nutraceuticals across the globe, ingredients from Sabinsa have been successfully incorporated in a number of formulations.

“A serious limitation on innovating pet care products is the ban of studies/trials on pets like cats, dogs, cows, horses, and so on by regulatory bodies,” he continued. “Even studies on experimental animals like rats, rabbits, mice and guinea pigs are banned. Hence fixing the dosage in the absence of such studies is a challenging task. Sabinsa’s products for pets are based on ayurvedic medicine, having 5,000 years of historical usage, including use on animals. They have been thus been found safe to use in pets.” He noted that dosage forms that are in the form of treats that animals find tasty is far better for compliance than pill forms that may be difficult to administer.

Peirce addressed the dosing of medical-related products. “We are focused on nutrition, treats, and some pet foods.” But for administering pills, “one creative dosing ‘aid’ is the soft pill pocket—a small-formed soft treat that you can drop a pill into and the pet consumes it with no difficulty. RIBUS’ Nu-RICE (rice extract) is a perfect product to aid in the forming of the pocket and to help keep it soft over time until it is used.”

Food Safety and Pet Food

The biggest news affecting pet food, according to Bookout, is the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and larger companies are in the process of meeting the FSMA requirements. “FSMA really goes further than the requirements for human dietary supplement products, focusing more on complete and total supply chain management, which is a good thing,” he said. “NASC has specifically made it a priority to stay ahead of the regulatory curve and our Preferred Supplier Program was implemented to address qualifying and differentiating quality suppliers, while at the same time addressing the cost of quality. The real question is how much quality is the consumer willing to pay for.” NIE

For More Information:
Kemin Nutrisurance, (515) 559-5365
National Animal Supplement Council, (760) 751-3360
Ribus, Inc., (314) 727-4287
Sabinsa, (732) 777-1111

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