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How to meet the five most popular functional health claims

September 20 2021 - News

Functional health claims are driving the global pet food market. Pet parents want to give their four-legged companions food that contributes to their health and well-being, targets specific health issues, or caters to the specific needs of their age group. This demand provides many opportunities for pet food manufacturers. But what are the most popular functional health claims and which ingredients can be used to meet them? 

According to a recent survey amongst almost 1,400 consumers in North America who buy pet food and treats, the five most popular functional health claims for pet food and treats are: 

  1. Healthy digestion (58%) 
  2. Muscle, joint & bone health (52%)
  3. Skin/coat care (49%) 
  4. Immune system support (46%) 
  5. Heart/cardiovascular health (40%) 

At IQI, we supply a diverse range of high-quality ingredients to meet these and other popular functional health claims. Let’s take a look at a few of the most interesting ones: 

GOS and seaweed prebiotics for a healthy gut

Healthy digestion, the most popular functional health claim, can be achieved using different kinds of ingredient, such as prebiotics, postbiotics, insoluble fibers, immunoglobulins (IgG), and highly digestible proteins. The use of prebiotics is a significant trend in the food and pet food industry and is the basis for good gut health. A prebiotic effect is achieved with the intake of soluble fibers that dissolve in gastrointestinal fluids and become a substrate for the beneficial microflora in the gut. These ferment the fiber into short-chain fatty acids, thereby increasing their population in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Two prebiotics suitable for pet food applications are seaweeds and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS)*, which are non-digestible, soluble fibers manufactured from lactose in cow’s milk. In a previous blog, I described how different kinds of red, brown and green seaweed have a very high content of soluble prebiotic dietary fibers. At IQI, we supply both pure whole seaweeds and blends of seaweeds of all three color types. These blends are formulated based on the seaweeds’ bioactive properties to achieve broader efficacy, targeting specific performance and bioactivity. 

Insoluble fibers for better bowl functioning

Insoluble fibers are equally important for healthy bowel functioning. These do not dissolve in gastrointestinal fluids and pass through the intestinal digestive tract fully or mostly intact. The inclusion of insoluble fibers in pet food stimulates bowel functioning, aids digestion and regularity, and they stick to other by-products of digestion in the gastrointestinal tract. This stimulates intestinal tract movement and the processing of waste. Due to their excellent water-retention capacity, insoluble fibers help to regulate the consistency and water content of stools. Insoluble dietary fibers are available from different sources, including cellulose, ligno cellulose, miscanthus fiber, and functional carrot fiber. 

Health benefits of chicken plasma powder

Another beneficial ingredient is immunoglobulin G (IgG), the main type of antibody found in the blood circulation, which protects the body from infection by binding many kinds of pathogen, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. This has a favorable impact on gut health, reduces joint inflammation, and reduces allergic reactions that cause itching and scratching. Plasma powder has a high IgG content. Plasma sourced specifically from poultry contains a particular type of immunoglobulin Y (IgY) that is unique to poultry and similar to globulins derived from egg protein. Similar to IgG, IgY is effective in improving gut health and supporting the immune system in fighting pathogens, and has the added benefit that it does not trigger the allergenic response in humans. 

Omega-3 ticks most boxes

Interested in achieving four of the top five functional health claims with a single ingredient? Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits for cats and dogs. Among others, the intake of omega-3 fatty acids is reported to have a positive influence on muscle, joint and bone health, skin/coat health, immune system support, heart and cardiovascular health, vision, and brain and cognitive function. As I explained in a previous blog, you must ensure that you use the right omega-3 source, in the right amounts, and in the right combination within the pet food formula in order to make true functional health claims. 

To achieve full health benefits, pet food needs certain inclusion levels of the long-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are mostly found in marine oils and algae. At IQI, we supply refined and deodorized fish oil made from different species of fish, which averages around 18% EPA and 12% DHA, MSC-certified full-fat krill meal, which contains 24% omega-3 fatty acids of which 21% is EPA and DHA, and algae DHA made from cultured microalgae, which has a minimum DHA content of 28%. 

Taurine for heart/cardiovascular health

Taurine is another important ingredient for making functional health claims related to heart and cardiovascular health, and it also supports vision, especially in cats. Unlike dogs, cats cannot synthesize their own taurine in sufficient amounts and need taurine supplementation to prevent heart and cardiovascular issues, such as the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Because of genetic differences between breeds, changing diets, health issues, or old age, dogs can suffer from taurine deficiency, which may lead to DCM – making taurine an important ingredient to consider for making functional health claims. 

IQI White papers

Would you like to learn more about these and other ingredients? Please download our leaflet on IQI pet food ingredients that meet ten different health and wellness claims in pet food and treats

Or check out the IQI website for a selection of white papers on different ingredients used to make functional health claims

* GOS are not AAFCO approved for use in pet food.

About Geert van der Velden

Geert van der Velden is IQI Trusted Petfood Ingredients’ Innovation Manager responsible for Business Development, generating new products and concepts that meet the needs of existing and new customers. Geert has more than 25 years’ experience in the international pet food industry and has gained knowledge and experience in many sections of IQI’s business.

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