Process considerations for plant-based pet food

Plant-based foods have soared in popularity in both human and pet food in recent years. Interest in and development of plant-based proteins is growing due to issues with the traditional animal protein supply chain. However, with this growing popularity, experts warn that manufacturing products with plant-based ingredients needs new and different production protocols and considerations to ensure safe and marketable products are created.  

In this article, we’ll be looking at the most important considerations that need to be taken by food processing companies in developing plant-based pet foods. 

3 crucial considerations 

In a recent survey, pet food manufacturers highlighted three factors as “extremely important” when it comes to developing pet foods with plant-based proteins: the nutritional profile of the food, its label, and its appearance. 

Nutritional profile 

It’s important to recognise that plant-based proteins by themselves won’t give pets the balanced diet they need. This means replacing other proteins with plant-based ones in pre-existing formulas may not be easy. Also, on top of those changes, you need to keep in mind the possible food processing equipment implications. 

Different ingredients will handle different during production. In order to provide the nutritious and health product that pet owners expect, you might be required to supplement your formula with alternative sources of vitamins, minerals, and fats. As a result, this could affect your label by adding more ingredients to your list, some of which might not be easy for customers to recognise. 

The appearance of the food 

When it comes to developing the food and overall food safety, you should think about questions relating to the desired look of the finished product. For example, if you want it to look like distinct particles, like chunks in a stew, or as a blended meal. The answer will influence your manufacturing and sourcing strategy, which will have a direct impact on how much it will cost to make your pet food and what it will cost pet owners to buy it. 

To create a ‘chunky’ appearance, you will require plant-based inclusions. These could potentially be more expensive than incorporated powders, both from a raw materials point of view, and in regard to the complexity of your operations. However, with careful analysis, you might decide the additional cost is worthwhile for you, particularly if you already have well-known “chunky” products on the market. 

Innovators might opt to develop a plant-based pet food with particles that resemble meat to attract customers who value being able to identify ingredients in the final product. No matter if you decide to go down this route or produce a homogenised final product using plant-based powders, you should work backwards from the final product to understand and plan for what it means for your facility and process design. This is because it will affect your entire operation and everyone involved, including food industry equipment manufacturers. 

The label 

When you have a food that looks the way you envisioned and has a smell and texture that will appeal to pets, there’s another important factor to consider: how will your label look and how will you encourage consumers to buy the product? It’s not enough to create a formula that’s free of certain things (such as meat, gluten, or grain). 

To support what you’re saying, you need a good comprehension of modern hygienic design for pet food processing. Food manufacturers that use raw meat in their operations will be aware of the risk of cross-contamination and take steps to prevent it. This will ensure that the claims on their product labels are valid.  

For pet food manufacturers, hygienic design and implementation is a must in order to manage different ingredients, environmental conditions, and packaging solutions all within the same facility. An example of this is if you’re manufacturing a plant-based, gluten-free food in a factory that uses wheat-based flour for other pet food formulations. 

Flour gives off dust and dust present a high risk of cross-contamination. To control that risk, you would need either a separate production line or in-depth cleaning and turnover protocol.

Need help?

These considerations are extremely important to ensure your success as a plant-based pet food manufacturer. If you need help with developing safe and efficient processes in your facility to produce healthy and meat-free pet food, contact FESS Group today. Our process design consultants can help your operation become as cost-effective, efficient, and productive as possible. 

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