5 pet food trends and tips for processors

Posted by Terri Shipstone on

For many pet owners, particularly in younger age brackets, our furry friends feel more like our babies. Pet food packaging might even start to look like baby food in terms of design, format, and materials.

Whether it’s buying them cozy beds, fancy toys, or food with more nutritional benefits, we do everything we can to keep our pets healthy and happy. Even as budgets tighten, pet owners are willing to pay premium prices for food and treats with specific claims around ingredients, sustainability, and social impact.

Many of these pet food trends will continue into 2024 and beyond, but which ones should you keep an eye on? We think natural ingredients, personalization, meatless protein, sustainability, and functional nutrition are the ones to watch. Because rotary airlock valves are our specialty, we’ll also throw in some tips on how to incorporate these trends into your bulk material handling process.

Ingredients: What’s on the label?

“If I can’t pronounce it, I won’t eat it” is a common sentiment these days. Much like in human nutrition, pet owners are scanning labels for shorter ingredient lists that include natural and easy-to-understand ingredients. That means no harmful additives or artificial dyes, flavors, antibiotics, pesticides, or preservatives.

With that in mind, fresh, raw, freeze-dried, and frozen pet food with natural claims are starting to enter the mainstream pet diet.

Processor tips: There’s a balance to be struck between streamlining ingredient lists and maintaining the best possible product quality. Make sure processing equipment like rotary airlocks are properly configured to maintain product integrity, uniform material size, and consistent flow throughout the conveying line.

Personalization: Perfect for my pooch

Pet health is not just about prolonging lifespan anymore — it’s about improving health span and overall quality of life. Tech-assisted nutritional science and tailored pet food based on DNA testing may become more popular.

As owners become more aware of their pets’ health needs, many are interested in exploring personalized meal plans. Obesity remains a key health concern, so we’re seeing more products targeting issues like weight loss, increased protein, added fiber, and digestive health.

Processor tips: As pet food becomes more specialized, you may want to invest in a processing setup that allows you to split conveying lines or convey multiple materials down the same line. In that case, you can investigate special types of rotary valves that provide the flexibility you need.

Protein shifts: More meatless munchies

Those tech innovations will be useful in developing more meatless protein alternatives, which are becoming more popular with diet-conscious consumers. We’re seeing more acceptance of plant-based, cultured, fermented, and insect-based protein sources. These alternatives also tend to be more sustainable and planet-friendly.

Processor tips: Even with meatless protein, preventing contamination will continue to be a critical aspect of pet food processing. Equip your plant with tools and machinery designed for sanitation and easy cleaning, such as a Quick-Clean valve on rails.

Sustainability: Branching out into new avenues

Consumers are still vocal about their sustainability concerns, so it’s a safe bet that companies will continue working on lowering their environmental impact.

Packaging is a common area of focus, but brands are also being urged to investigate regenerative agriculture, upcycled ingredients, operational efficiency, and greater transparency and traceability around their initiatives. In 2024, we should see greater efforts to reduce water consumption.

Brands can also appeal to climate-focused consumers with more renewable alternatives to rice, corn, and wheat, such as amaranth, fonio, and quinoa.

Processor tips: If you’re interested in optimizing your plant, you can try implementing more energy-efficient valves into your process. Regular valve maintenance can also prevent a lot of unnecessary material waste and downtime, so make sure you keep a historical maintenance log.

Functional nutrition: Topping up those vitamins

On top of all those healthy, natural foods, consumers will be looking to supplement their pets’ health with additional vitamins and minerals. Functional nutrition trends are predicted to grow, particularly in the form of products like soft chew treats and meal toppers packed with extra nutrients.

Processor tips: Equipping yourself for new product formats is key. If you’re planning test batches before new products go to market, you’ll need a valve designed to meter out small doses accurately and consistently.

Get your valves trend-ready

Trends change from year to year, but an effective rotary valve setup will always serve you well. Contact our experts to understand the best valves and accessories to optimize your process for the unique needs of the market.

Categories: Manufacturing , Sanitary