The trend over the last few years in the pet food industry has been or more natural pet food with freeze drying a main component.
More and more companies are looking at supplying the market as it steadily increases. In 2014, the US natural dog food market grew 7.2% to US$4.3 billion and the natural cat food market grew 8.8% to US$700 million, according to GfK data. Yes , this data may be a couple of years old but the trend is still there and the growth is still happening with some pet food companies having a 40% increase year on year for the last few years.
So why the increase? I am sure marketing will play some part in this but the main fact is that the consumer wants the best for their pet and natural foods like raw meats and vitamins are best.
Freeze Dried pet food is really the only way to maintain the nutrition, taste and smell of products when removing the moisture. If you combine raw ingredients (meat and vegetables) with supplements, cooking or baking could diminish the goodness in the foods.
Pet food companies that look at freeze drying as part of their brand have a couple of options when it comes to freeze drying. First they can find a toll provider that will freeze dry their product for them, allowing them to grow their market without the capital cost, and second the company can purchase a freeze dryer and do it all in house.
A toll provider has limitations. They may not be willing to share the recipe or process for drying so making it harder for the company to learn the process and bring it in house. They may also have limitations on size, weight and shape of the product. On a positive note, this is a good way to get a new product out to market and measure the results with limited outlay of cost.
Freeze drying in house can have its complications too. There is the capital cost for the equipment, the space in the factory and the integration in to the companies system. A company needs to have the ability to freeze the products ready for drying and once completed, the systems to deal with packaging or storing in bulk to be sent to a packaging company.
However, on a positive note, the company has total control over the product - size, shape, weight etc. They are not limited to size runs or time schedules and can control the quality of the product. They also will understand the freeze dry process and could use this to develop other products.
Speed is not always the best for freeze dried products. There is a trade off from quick drying to quality of product. There can be ways to optimise the drying time however blasting high heats is not always the best option. This is where a freeze dry companies experience comes in to play and their ability to integrate seamlessly into a factory’s process system.
Having work with pet food companies, Cuddon Freeze dryers have been a good fit in the pet food industry with good results on tested and commercial products. We are happy to talk in confidence with pet food companies that may be exploring this area, helping them gain insight and understanding of freeze drying and the process.
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