Pet Food and Pet Treat Sales Surged During Covid-19
Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a global economic crisis, pet industry sales in the United States exceeded $100 billion for the first time ever in 2020.
Of the 2020 total, $42 billion was spent on pet food and pet treats which is an increase of nearly 10% from 2019.
This growth can largely be attributed to the growing number of pet ownerships as many people sought out pets during the pandemic for comfort and companionship.
Despite the demand for pets and subsequent pet food showing no signs of slowing down, the industry still faces a broad set of challenges across the pet food manufacturing spectrum.
So, what are the pressing issues facing pet food manufacturers in 2021?
Current Challenges in the Pet Food Industry
Ever-Changing Customer Demands
Many pet owners have “humanised” their dogs and cats and consider them fully fledged family members.
As a result, many consumers are constantly demanding food and treats for their beloved pets that mimic their own nutrition choices.
In response, pet food manufacturers are closely monitoring food industry trends to forecast the future demands of pet food consumers.
Some of the key trends currently making waves in the pet food industry include:
- The demand for premium pet food and increasing interest in natural pet food with limited ingredients and health claims such as “organic” and “grain-free”.
- Increasing demand of pet food with calming ingredients such as hemp oil and cannabidiol (CBD).
- The shift towards pet foods and treats with exotic proteins such as venison, bison, wild boar, and rabbit.
- Pet food and treat options that are sustainable, traceable and responsibility sourced.
With consumer buying habits and trends in the pet food industry constantly evolving, manufacturers face the challenge of providing a greater variety of products in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
Therefore, in 2021, it’s more important than ever that pet food manufacturers are flexible enough to respond quickly to changing market demands. They need to invest in processing equipment and technologies that can accommodate the need for agility and versatility. They also need to be able to support a variety of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) for both current and future needs.
Consumers Demanding Sustainability
Environmental sustainability is extremely important to many consumers. In recent years, there’s been an increasing demand from consumers for the food they consume to be produced in a sustainable way. And they expect the same for their pet’s food.
More than ever, consumers expect pet food manufacturers to integrate sustainability in to their products as well as throughout the manufacturing process.
Like human food, the production of pet food contributes to pollution and climate change. It has been estimated that an average dog’s carbon footprint is twice that of a 4×4 car. And the bigger the dog, the more food they need and the larger the environmental impact.
If they haven’t already, pet food manufacturers must respond by incorporating environmentally sustainable principles into their business model and throughout their whole supply chain, from production itself to packaging, transportation, warehousing and so on.
From eliminating pet food waste and sourcing ingredients responsibility to reducing the of use of plastic packaging and managing energy and water more efficiently, pet food companies must make great strides to minimise their environmental footprint across the value chain.
Pet Food Contamination and Safety Issues
Over the years, the pet food industry has been plagued with several pet food scares. Pathogen related recalls are among the most frequent.
Microorganisms such as salmonella as well as ingredients tainted by fungal mycotoxins, like aflatoxin, have resulted in some serious problems, both emotional and financial. With 2021 well underway, contamination and safety issues continue to cause headaches for pet food companies. For example, a dry dog food brand in the US was recently recalled due to the product containing traces of dead aflatoxin which was detected after customers complained about suspected mycotoxin poisoning in their pets.
As well as being detrimental to a pet food company’s reputation and brand, product recalls due to contamination are extremely costly.
To minimise the risk of this happening, pet food manufacturers should largely focus their efforts on ensuring hygiene, sanitation, and good manufacturing practices. So, for pet food production, this involves attention to detail around employee and raw material segregation as well as the hygienic design of processing equipment and process lines. It also involves stringent requirements of conveyance, cleaning, inspection and so on. In other words, pet food should uphold the same standards to human food processing facilities.
Competition in the pet food industry is intense.
Pet food companies are no longer just faced with the challenge of standing out on supermarket shelves where there is a limited amount of space for the competition. Now, due to digitalisation, the space is literally unlimited. Therefore, thousands of pet food companies are now competing for the same digital shelf space.
According to data, larger brands like Amazon and Nestle Purina have an advantage over the competition. This is largely due to them having the distribution channels and systems in place which enables them to manage orders effectively and meet shoppers where they are – which is online (35% of all pet food sales will be completed online by the end of 2024).
Smaller pet food brands may struggle to keep up if they don’t have the systems and equipment in place that meets the needs of the ever-changing customer.
That’s why if they haven’t already, pet food companies should consider embracing effective digital solutions in order to succeed and gain more market share. Data suggests brands with a strong online presence are more likely to engage with their customers, improve their experience and strengthen brand loyalty.
Benefits of Pigging Systems for Pet Food Manufacturers
Liquid product recovery (“pigging”) technology can help pet food companies solve some of their biggest business challenges. That’s why pigging systems are being widely adopted by manufacturers that pump liquid and wet product through pipelines.
To put it briefly, pigging uses a specialist projectile (called the “pig”) to recover nearly all residual product in pipelines which would otherwise be wasted. HPS pigging systems are high-performance, quality, and long-lasting and recover up to 99.5% of product from full pipelines.
The HPS hygienic (sanitary) pig is made up of FDA approved materials and meet the demands of the hygienic or sanitary conditions required for pet food production.
Because HPS pigging systems for pet food recover so much product, they are an incredibly effective way to increase yields and reduce waste.
How Pigging Systems Help Pet Food Manufacturers
As well as increasing yields and cutting waste, pigging offers a wide range of additional benefits to pet processing and production.
The changeover and cleaning process is much more efficient and faster with a pigging solution. There’s no requirement for lengthy flushes and washouts, as the pig reclaims most of the product.
Therefore, not only does pigging save product, but it also saves time, resources, water, and energy. In this way, pigging is a great way for companies to meet their environmental sustainability goals (here’s more on the environmental benefits of pigging).
Reducing Contamination Risks with a Pigging Solution
Because HPS custom pigging systems reclaim practically all the residue from the pipes, the chances of contamination are massively reduced.
There’s minimal product remaining in the pipes, which means there’s less chance of product-build up.
Pigging also ensures a hygienic and dry environment which inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. In this way, pigging improves product quality and decreases the chances of costly product recalls.
HPS pigging systems also lower the chances of product cross-contamination. In many cases, the same production line can be used for different formulations of pet food with minimal mixing and dilution between products.
Please note, some cleaning may still be required after pigging the line, but this will typically be minimal.
Meeting the Needs of Customer for Greater Product Variety
Pigging systems can also help pet food companies meet the demands of customers for greater product variety. With a pigging solution, the same line can be used for different pet food formulas and different emulsions. This minimises dedicated piping costs while increasing the capacity and flexibility of manufacturing operations.
By using shared pipelines with a pigging solution, this allows pet food companies to be flexible and agile. They can launch products rapidly and react quickly to seasonal demands. In some processing plants, it may be possibly to pump the next product instantly following the pigging process.
However, in cases where this isn’t possible, the cleaning level required for a product changeover will be significantly less with a pigging and pipeline product recovery system.
High Return on Investment with Pigging
Pigging systems are certainly a win-win for pet food manufacturers. Other benefits of pigging include improved efficiency, better productivity, decreased downtime as well as improvements to the accuracy, reliability and efficiency of liquid product lot or batch traceability.
Importantly, pigging systems deliver significant savings to pet food processing and production and provide a high return on investment (ROI) with fast payback. In most cases, payback from pigging and product recovery is nearly always between 6 and 12 months. However, this can vary from organisation to organisation.
The benefits of pigging for pet food manufacturers are significant. Therefore, if you work for a pet food company that pumps liquids or wet product, and you’re not sure whether they’re pigging or not, it’s worth finding out.
If they’re not pigging, it’s certainly something they should be considering.
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