Date: 18/03/2019

Thinking about better alternatives to improve animal performance and quality of life from feeding is essential. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the ingredients for pet nutrition without excesses and no lack of nutrients, ensuring a balanced and palatable diet.

When following the trends, it is important to pay attention to ingredients that no longer meet the current reality of the pet industry and, for that matter, the possible answers the formulator can bring.

Products that no longer meet nutritional needs

An essential food for pets should prioritize, according to the Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia, ingredients derived from meat, especially chicken and co-products of proven origin.

It is also necessary to have inputs that do not endanger the health and quality of life of animals such as vegetables and fruits.

Only then you will be guaranteed to be producing highly functional food with excellent nutritional value and that will provide an adequate percentage of essential amino acids like Leucine, Lysine, Methionine and Taurine.

Here are some examples of foods that are widely used in formulations, but have some nutritional deficiencies or can be replaced by higher added value ingredients and safer.


Corn is widely used in concentrated animal feed formulation. However, this is not because of its nutritional benefits, but because of the lower cost of production, so much that it is considered a filler in formulations.

This means that it is used to give volume for a lower price than other more nutritious and naturally more expensive components.

Corn is a grain with about 60% starch in its composition, the other 40% is diluted between gluten, bark, water and corn germ.

The percentage of carbohydrates is high, which demonstrates that other nutritional needs (such as protein intake) are not met when food has a high concentration of corn in its composition.

There are variations in the use of corn that potentiate the proteins of its composition, one of them is the use of corn germ bran. However, even with this change in the manipulation, the protein concentration is low.

It is also worth mentioning that the high content of starch is harmful for pets with some kind of corn allergy.


Although it is a cereal with high fiber concentration, it is not indicated as an ingredient in the formulation of food specifically for pets nutrition because, as it is for humans, some animals tend to develop allergies and gluten intolerance.

Dogs are one of the species most affected by gluten, and there are studies that point to the development of the celiac disease.

The gluten present in wheat is the main responsible for these allergies that result in wounds, loss of fur, inflammation of the skin, itching, and other types of diseases that cause great discomfort to pets.

Wheat bran

Wheat bran is nothing more than a co-product of human food. The bran also contains gluten and may potentiate the effects of celiac disease.

Despite being a byproduct, wheat bran is considered a food that has good amount of fiber and protein, and at the same time providing energy.

Its major problem is low shelf life (especially when stored in large quantities) and sensitivity to humidity. That is, it is a problem in terms of market and logistics, and requires a lot of control and management of the input, so that it is not discarded.

Wheat bran should be considered the same as corn: a food with low nutritional potential, but with a large amount of carbohydrate, which makes it a good substitute for corn itself. However, this substitution does not solve part of the nutritional problems of foods.


Despite being a source of protein and calories, it is still the reason for debates in the veterinary environment. Some studies point out that soy is causing health problems in animals, among them thyroid dysfunctions, growth problems, liver and reproductive problems.

Meat without source specification

To know the origin of the food that pets consume is a necessity for dog and cat owners.

As it happens with us, the intake of food of dubious origin can trigger intestinal and stomach problems. Meat demands a high sanitary control, either for human consumption or for making food for pets.

When there is no traceability of the animal protein, the risk of contamination is bigger. In addition, the entire life history of the slaughtered animal makes a difference in the quality of the meat, especially when it comes to vaccinations and disease control.

Oat shell

Oat bark is also used as a filler to increase the volume of food, but also suffers from low nutritional value. If the intention is to develop a premium food, producers should pay attention to this detail.

The list of filling inputs in the formulation of pet rations is very extensive. It may include, not only those already mentioned, but also cotton bark and core, modified corn starch, soybean shell, rice bran, rice protein, soluble grain fermentation and others.

Trends of formulators for pets

It is not recent that the food industry seeks to keep up with the demands of the market to deliver what is most modern and healthy in food production for people’s table.

In this case, the same logic applies to animals. Formulators and animal feed developers are always in search of trends, which are available after a lot of research and development work.

Here also comes a very important point: knowledge. The internet has democratized the knowledge on the most diverse subjects, including the way the food provided to animals is elaborated. This awareness has impacted animal nutrition in two ways:

  1. Consumers started to demand healthier and nutritionally processed foods for their pets;
  2. People began to worry about the feed of slaughter animals.

As knowledge about animal nutrition expanded, the industry’s need to produce food aligned with the expectations of a more informed consumer grew together. Today, the client understands the origin of the food given to the animals and has sources to know more about the gaps that the industry presents.

A survey commissioned by Package Facts analyzed the millennial consumption behaviors of pet owners (18- to 34-year-olds) in the US. The data revealed quite intriguing facts:

  • 69% are more likely to consider more natural foods;
  • 75% believe that contamination of food and product safety is an important consideration when buying rations;
  • Millennials are looking for products that show exactly what they have inside. For that, being honest when describing the ingredients that were used in the formulation is a very interesting strategic action, mainly due to the high demand for organic and non-transgenic food.

Following the most appropriate line of rations to new consumer behaviors, a strong trend in the animal feed market is the formulation of premium and super premium feeds.

In other words, foods that have high quality ingredients and great nutritional load, at the same time as being less processed. Its formulation aims to contemplate different aspects of animal health, contributing to a healthier animal life.

The use of organic inputs in the formulation is also a practice that has been gradually intensified in recent years, especially among the millennials, as previously mentioned.

The goal is to provide animals with products that are more natural, without chemical interventions in their growth and pest control. However, in addition to an appropriate formulation to the market requirements, consumers seek clear and accurate information about the quality and effectiveness of formulators.

Let’s talk a bit more about these new trends and understand why they are important for pet formulators.

Functional Ingredients

A range of options may open up for the understanding of what is a functional ingredient, but some precaution is needed to avoid putting everything together on a tray and just change the way people call it.

The inclusion of these ingredients brings benefits to animal health because, besides being functional, they provide essential nutrients such as water, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

We can name:

Safflower Oil

This ingredient has several benefits and a wide offer for human consumption.

The FDA, the US government agency that deals with the control of the food, drug and cosmetic industries in the US, has approved the use of this ingredient for pet nutrition, taking into account that it is a functional food.

The main reason for this permission is the ability of safflower oil to assist in weight loss, skin disease control, increased mobility and treatment of immune system disorders.

Purple corn, Suntava, Blueberry, Açaí and Pomegranate

We mentioned above corn as simply a filler in feed formulators, but it is important to consider also the purple corn because of its proven benefits to animals.

These ingredients are not so new in pet food but they are still trend ingredients for animal nutrition because they are high in antioxidants and polyphenols, usually organic and with whole grains.

Intended for feeding pets, these ingredients help in keeping joint health, digestive health, control of blood sugar levels and especially weight control, which is already a benefit to the lower limbs that will not be overloaded.

Meat-based diet

Thanks to the high concentration of protein, minerals, calcium and phosphorus, the meat-based diet is one of the preferred by pet owners. On the other hand, one should take care not to exceed the daily recommendation for calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other minerals.

The abuse of these components causes serious problems. Calcium in excess compromises the kidneys and may even weaken the bones. Phosphorus in high doses leads to hyperphosphatemia, and in the case of excessive intake of magnesium, low blood pressure and weakness may be caused.

Pork Crackling Meal or Poultry Meal are a good alternative, for example. Since they are made by cooking processes, these ingredients are 100% natural, guaranteeing high protein levels, fresh and quality raw material.

What the formulator can bring in response to market trends

Pet nutrition requires supplementation. The difference lies in the food supply of the animals’ diet, which is much smaller than the human. Dogs and cats can have their entire nutrition based on a single food, the ration.

It is precisely the need to regulate animal nutrition that demands healthy products with no harmful components and that leave no gap in daily nutrition.

When the food offered to pets is not complete, one takes the risk of nutritional deficiency and poor quality of the animal’s life.

According to nutritional and veterinary research, the feeding of animals, especially dogs, requires up to 50% of carbohydrates, 2.5% to 4.5% of fibers, 5% of fats and 10% of protein.

These are the minimum required numbers. That is, it is possible to formulate more “segmented” foods that serve one or other nutritional need in a more dedicated way.

There is a demand to analyze essential aspects, such as the nutritional need and the specific characteristics of each species. Alongside this, there is all the research, development and monitoring of market trends and consumption requirements.

Another important point is to be a nutritional reference for people, since studies show that only 10% of dog owners know what their friend needs. At the same time, 80% said they believe that the nutritional demands of humans and dogs are basically the same.

According to Food Processing, animal feed is already following some trends of human food. Formulators are developing foods that can help animals overcome physical limitations, going from arthritis to other signs of aging.

The ingredients for pet nutrition should be thought from functional tendencies and nutritional balance, in addition, of course, to care about and inform the origin of the food.