Q&A: How can emerging ingredients shape the pet food of tomorrow?

Pet Food Processing Exchange will be held Oct. 7 to 8 in Kansas City, Mo.

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Countless hours of research, experimentation and trial go into every new pet food and treat product that ultimately end up in the pet food aisle. The product development process involves a combination of food science and process engineering, not to mention an understanding of the nutritional needs of the end consumer — the dog or cat. Combine those factors with the increased demands of today’s pet parents for clean label, sustainable and functional pet food and treats, and pet food formulators have their work cut out for them.

As the senior director of Product Development, innovation and applied research at Simmons Pet Food, Brittany White, Ph.D., leads a team responsible for the formulation and ongoing maintenance of more than 2,000 formulas across 100 different brands. Her education and background in food chemistry and ingredient functionality helps drive her passion for new product development. She and her team at Simmons are on a mission to “nourish and delight” pets around the globe.   

Brittany White, Ph.D., senior director of product development, innovation and applied research at Simmons Pet Food will share her insights during Pet Food Processing Exchange

Brittany White, Ph.D., senior director of product development, innovation and applied research at Simmons Pet Food.

| Source: Simmons Pet Food

During the inaugural Pet Food Processing Exchange Oct. 7 to 8 in Kansas City, hosted by Pet Food Processing magazine and parent company Sosland Publishing, subject matter experts in the areas of product formulation, animal nutrition, data analysis, packaging, food safety, automation and more will share their knowledge of the formulation, production and safety of pet food on-stage.

On Oct. 7, White will speak on a topic that’s near and dear to her heart — “All About the Ingredients.” She will share information on some of the latest and greatest ingredients available to pet food formulators, and how all these crucial components come together to make nourishing and healthy pet foods for our four-legged companions. 

Speaking with Pet Food Processing magazine, White discussed how new and emerging ingredients can influence the formulation of pet food and treats. 

Pet Food Processing: How does research begin when it comes to emerging new ingredients for pet food formulations?

White: Research should start with a thorough literature review to understand the nutritional benefits, safety and potential health impacts of the new ingredient, specifically for companion animals. This may be followed by consultations with veterinary nutritionists and other industry experts. Laboratory testing should be conducted to evaluate the ingredient’s analytical composition. Small-scale production of diets for palatability and digestibility testing are essential before moving to larger scale feeding trials to ensure the ingredient is both beneficial and safe for pets.


PFP: What opportunities do emerging ingredients offer?

White: Emerging ingredients can provide several benefits, such as improved nutritional profiles, enhanced palatability, and potential health benefits like better digestion or immune support. They can also help address specific dietary needs or preferences. Additionally, these ingredients can differentiate products in a competitive market, appealing to health-conscious pet owners looking for high-quality, innovative options to feed their pets.


PFP: Everyone talks about the humanization of the pet food industry, how does this trend influence what you do?

White: The humanization trend drives us to focus on premium, high-quality ingredients and transparent sourcing. Pet owners are increasingly seeking products with clean labels — free from artificial additives and fillers — that look and smell like foods they would consume and contain ingredients they recognize from their own diets. This trend pushes the industry to innovate and create formulations that may mirror human food trends, but it is critical that our primary goal is to ensure they meet the specific nutritional needs of pets.


PFP: What other trends are driving the inclusion of new and emerging ingredients in pet food?

White: Several trends are influencing this drive for the inclusion of new and emerging ingredients. First, the growing demand for specialized diets such as grain-free, high-protein or limited-ingredient diets. There’s also a big focus on functional foods that offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition including probiotics for gut health and Omega 3s for skin and coat health. And, there’s increasing interest in novel protein sources to address food sensitivities and sustainability concerns. Additionally, pet owners are looking for exotic and unique ingredients that offer variety and perceived health benefits.


PFP: As sustainability becomes increasingly important, what are some ingredients that can support the industry’s environmental efforts?

White: Ingredients that support sustainability include byproducts from the human food industry, like organ meats, meat/fish/poultry trimmings, spent grains, and byproducts from the fruit and vegetable industry. The use of these ingredients helps reduce waste and makes use of resources that would otherwise be discarded, a practice known as upcycling. 

Additionally, plant-based proteins have a lower environmental impact compared to traditional protein sources. Novel proteins such as insect meal and algae oil are also gaining traction for their minimal resource requirements and nutritional value. Sustainable farming practices and sourcing from regenerative agriculture can also contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of pet food production.


Attendees of Pet Food Processing Exchange can learn more about emerging ingredients for pet food and treat formulations during White’s presentation during the event. Learn more and register for Pet Food Processing Exchange here.