Dietary Benefits and Label Friendly Declaration
ARTICLE SUMMARY: Antioxidants, fiber and clean label implications — these and a host of other benefits make fruit powders, concentrates and purées attractive ingredients for pet food or treat formulations. In addition, consumers’ top concerns when
purchasing pet food include a desire for foods processed in the U.S. and cleaner, simpler product profiles. Tree Top, Inc. offers
pet food formulators a full portfolio of wholesome, high-quality fruit ingredients processed in the U.S., in a wide variety of forms,
to create specialized pet food offerings.
Fruits and vegetables cannot only help meet a pet’s dietary needs, but also supply great tag appeal as they score high marks
as label friendly ingredients. Front of packaging panel promotion or call-outs about the benefits these ingredients provide will attract the attention of the most caring pet "parent."
In the U.S. alone, recent figures show consumers
spent $9.5 billion on dog food and $4.9 billion
on cat food annually. Pet treats account for the
most rapidly growing segment within that category
with pet owners spending increasing amounts
on treats for both dogs and cats.1 In fact, Packaged
Facts online consumer survey data show that 87%
of U.S. dog owners and 68% of cat owners purchase
one or more types of treats/chews, illustrating the
popularity of these products among pet owners.2
See fig. 1
Their popularity, however, comes with increased
demand for higher quality ingredients and
nutritional benefits for companion animals, greater
manufacturer transparency and, correspondingly,
greater label scrutiny.
Indulgent pet owners interested in improving and
protecting their pet’s quality of life seek the same
characteristics from the ingredients used in pet
foods as they do from the ingredients included
in their own food. This creates opportunities for
formulators and pet food manufacturers to capture
market share with innovative products and unique
ingredients, such as fruit concentrates, powders
As pet owners continue to treat their companion animals
as family members, they transfer their own personal
“food philosophy” to the pet food aisle. “Fruit fits into
any food philosophy consumers might currently hold,”
said George Fahey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Department
of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana.*
"Whether that philosophy is
flexitarian, vegan, gluten free or
GMO free. In addition, there are
no fruit allergies of which we are
aware — fruit fits within many
Today’s consumer seeks out more flavor, added
nutritional benefits and higher ingredient quality.
They also demand manufacturing standards and
ingredient quality equal to human food standards,
according to new research from Mintel.3
As the free-from movement meets the pet food
aisle, American pet owners are just as concerned
with what isn’t in their pet’s food as what is. Mintel’s
Global New Products Database (GNPD) shows that
among consumers in the U.S. who prefer to purchase
food products with "free from" claims, 84 percent
purchase because they are looking for more natural
or less processed food.
The list of components that fit within "free-from"
demands is long but, in general, it means no
added sugar, chemicals, artificial preservatives or
ingredients known to be highly allergenic to pets.
And among other top purchase considerations for
pet owners, they want products made in the U.S.,
and those that are more natural (36 and 32 percent, respectively).4 This creates an opportunity to include
fruit, considered a naturally wholesome ingredient
that fits within the free-from philosophy and adds
label and functional benefits.
Which Fruit Tops the List?
The GNPD shows that in a recent year in the pet food
category, more than 750 new pet foods introduced
included apples, a huge spike compared to former
years. Cranberry was close behind with 350 new
products, while 250 included blueberry.
See fig. 2
Fruit ingredients offer the opportunity to tap
into their nutraceutical or phytonutrient qualities,
such as antioxidants and vitamins. Fruit can add
fiber, aid with texture, add color, help control
moisture and act as part of special formulations
designed to address specific owner concerns,
such as weight management.
Fruit for Fitness
Pet owners do worry that the food they buy
might make their pet obese. In addition, 55 percent
of all pet owners agree they worry about filler ingredients in pet food4 so they are searching
for healthier alternatives.
According to Dr. Fahey, "Many people don’t eat
healthy themselves, but want their pets to do so."
Fruit ingredients contain no fat and are typically
lower in calories than many other ingredients.
Adding fruit to a pet treat could have a positive
impact on weight management, since people can
sometimes overindulge a favorite pet.
Fahey said, "A treat doesn’t have to meet the same
nutritional specifications as a complete food and
the fruit treat could be given once or twice a day.
The formulator could add a lot more fruit for its
potential phytonutrient content than they could
add within kibble, or use the fruit treat for pets at
certain life stages such as aging animals, and play
off of the fruits' antioxidant content."
Treat Category Ripe for Innovation
Pet treats can be irreplaceable tools for positive
reinforcement to behavior-train a dog, but a large
percentage of people give treats to create an
emotional bond with their pet. And recent data
shows retail sales of treats reached $5.4 billion5
specialty foods and treats continuing to outperform
other market segments.
Owners are projecting their ingredient expectations
onto pet food products, moving beyond the desire
for high-quality ingredients to further "humanize"
pet foods and treats.3
In other words, pet owners
seek more natural formulations that address their
concerns related to preservatives, GMO ingredients
and the like. In addition they are looking for
ingredients that can help address health concerns.
Ideally, according to Dr. Fahey, treats should not
make up more than 10 to 15 percent of a pet’s daily
food intake. This means that treats should be lower
in calories and beneficial for the pet, which makes
ingredient selection a primary concern.
Free Radicals Matter
According to Packaged Facts, 39 percent of dog owners now have dogs aged seven years or older.6
These animals’ owners might look for products
that tie into health and weight control, in addition
to antioxidant content.
Consumers know that antioxidants from fruits and
vegetables provide positive benefits for their own
health and they are looking for these same benefits for
their pets. The most common antioxidants used in dog
food, for example, include vitamin E, vitamin C, citric
acid and rosemary. Vitamin C is commonly found in
cranberries, blueberries, apples and some other fruits.
Powerful antioxidants contained in these fruits can
help the body, human or animal, fight free radicals.
Free radicals are highly reactive, oxygen-containing
molecules that can damage cell membranes and
enzymes, which makes the nervous and immune
system especially vulnerable. Free radicals are
considered factors in disease progression and
The right amount of antioxidants in a pet food or
treat can help make a difference. Antioxidants within
the formula work together to support overall health
and provide for the entire body.7
This concept of ingredients working together
is not new within the pet food category, which
is built upon the concept of synergy. Unlike
human nutrition, where food is separate, kibble
for a dog or cat food in whatever form is complete
and balanced. Every kibble contains approximately
54 nutrients balanced for the pet’s diet, whether
formulated for a young dog, an overweight
animal or a senior pet.
Fruit can synergize with other
nutrients for a balanced pet diet,
whether canine or feline.
Fruit for Fiber
While it is true that dogs are more omnivorous and
cats primarily carnivorous, each species benefits from
the right type and right amount of fiber in the diet.
The ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber varies
depending on the type of fruit. Some soluble fibers
have been known to exert a positive influence on
blood glucose levels. This soluble fiber potentially
could be met using fruits.
"Strawberry, raspberry and blueberry purée with
seeds is safe for pet consumption for both dogs
and cats, and can supply added soluble and
insoluble fiber even when included in low levels
in formulations," said Doug Webster, Director of
Product Development, Tree Top Food Ingredients,
Inc. "Fruit fiber aids in gut motility and laxation. The
seeds within the purée add fiber while contributing
a negligible amount of calories when used in a pet
treat format, for example."
Dried apples and fruit powder contain fiber,
which can help bind water. When used in the right
ratio, according to Doug Webster, this can be an
advantageous fiber addition to consider in wet pet
food production. Wet food demands greater water
content than dry, yet also a firm texture and low
water activity. Pet food formulators, constantly on
the search for alternative fiber sources could look
to fruit ingredients, which are generally recognized
as safe (GRAS) by FDA, are nutritionally adequate
for inclusion in pet food formulation and possess
potential nutraceutical properties.8
Whether selecting fruit for functionality, fitness, free
radicals or fiber content, the research arm of Tree Top
Ingredients can help select the right form and right
type of fruit for the desired application. Tree Top is
a grower-owned fruit cooperative processing more
fruits, in more forms, than any other supplier on earth.
It annually processes more than 800 million pounds
of fresh fruit into high-quality, safe, fruit ingredients
that are processed in the United States. Fruit hits
almost every key trigger for pet food owners and fruit
ingredients from Tree Top can help create pet food
or treats with appealing labels and positive health
benefits for our beloved furry companions.
Millennial Pet Parents
Pet food owners, particularly Millennials, are
willing to spend extra money on higher-priced
pet products and services to ensure they are
purchasing high quality goods, food and treats
for the betterment of their pets’ overall health
Packaged Facts issued a report recently,
"Millennials as Pet Market Consumers," that
shows pet owners in the 18- to 34-year-old age
group are much more likely than those in the 35
and over age group to expect to spend more for
pet products during the next few years.
As pet owners, they reflect their overall
consumer orientation and behavior. They
generally are less concerned about brand
loyalty and more likely to have tried a new
brand of pet food in the last 30 days. They also
are much more likely to use raw pet food or
pet foods with formulations geared toward
enhancing the health of their pets.
Package tags that call attention to special
ingredient benefits or properties become
increasingly important in a market that has seen
a shift towards online purchasing. Amazon now
accounts for 10 percent of the pet food and
treat market purchases, with these numbers
higher among Millennials. Health and wellness
concerns tagged on the package front or label
makes it more likely to capture the consumer’s
attention, even when shopping online.
Dried apples are prepared from commercially
grown fruit which has been washed, peeled and
cored, sorted, trimmed, cut to the desired size and
dried to specified moisture range. In the case of a
"dry cut," an additional cutting is required following
the drying process.
Moisture: Evaporated 16%-26% (depending on style)
Low Moisture: 1.0%-3.5%
Fruit Purées are prepared from commercially grown
fruit that has been washed and processed through
finishing sieves to achieve desired size and texture.
For concentrated purée, the fruit is processed through
an evaporator to remove additional water.
8 Alternative Dietary Fiber Sources in Companion Animal Nutrition,
Godoy, Kerr, Fahey, July 2013, Nutrients http://www.mdpi.com/2072-
*George C. Fahey, Jr., Ph.D., is professor emeritus of Animal Sciences at
the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois and has studied companion
animal nutrition throughout his 40-year career at Illinois.
Our R&D departments welcome any customization challenge and we love working with our clients to create something brand new. We’re ready to provide innovative ideas, prototypes, packaging alternatives, and the world’s juiciest, tastiest and most delicious fruit products — naturally. Contact Tree Top at (800) 367-6571 ext. 1435
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