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Sourcing the right pet food ingredients to meet consumer demands

June 15 2021 - News

Pet humanization is one of the biggest trends in the pet food industry. Pet parents are increasingly aware of the importance of pure and high-quality ingredients to the health and well-being of cats and dogs. This and other consumer trends are driving demand for specific ingredients. The sourcing process is crucial to ensure the pet food industry has access to new and innovative ingredients at the right quality and cost level – enabling manufacturers to develop an even broader range of pet food to meet consumer demands. 

Together with my colleague Geert van der Velden, I specialize in sourcing new pet food ingredients that meet the latest trends in the global pet food industry. In recent years, for example, we have successfully responded to market demand for ‘grain free’, ‘natural’, and ‘high protein’ products. We now anticipate a greater focus on ingredients with specific functionalities, such as particular pet health claims or to meet specific pet needs. We specialize in ingredients that are more difficult to source or have longer supply chains. Examples of ingredients we recently sourced for the market include chicken broth powders, dried chicken products, lamb meal, duck products, seaweed blends, poultry plasma, and algae DHA. We also develop products, such as unique blends of ingredients, to meet specific customer demands. 

Factors that influence the choice of ingredients

The ultimate choice of ingredients for use in pet food is influenced by many different factors. Two examples are the functionality and the specific benefits to the health and well-being of cats and dogs. Other important factors include nutritional value, quality, cost, technical suitability for use in pet foods, sustainability, and animal welfare. We need to take all of these factors into account in the sourcing process for potential new ingredients to find exactly what our customers require. 

Strict supplier approval program

As soon as we identify a potential ingredient with the right characteristics, we first check to see whether the supplier and the product meet IQI and the customers’ basic criteria. As part of IQI’s strict supplier approval program, we collect information on their quality programs and process controls suppliers have in place. Both of these need to be well defined to ensure that a new supplier can meet the high demands of the pet food market. 

Ensuring quality

In terms of delivering quality, determining whether a potential supplier has the right quality mentality is the most important factor. Should a potential supplier initially fail to meet our quality requirements, we can help them develop the right quality programs and set up their processes accordingly. In certain cases, I or one of my colleagues will carry out pre-audits and on-site visits. This helps to determine in which areas suppliers need help to develop or improve their process or quality programs. We can then make recommendations, share good examples and show what is needed to deliver the high quality expected by our clients and today’s pet food buyers. In the end, mutual collaboration with our supply partners is key to ensuring that the right level of quality is obtained. 

Product testing

Our effective procurement process and investment in the relationship with new suppliers ensure that the ingredients we offer are in accordance with the agreed specifications. We request product samples for testing, either in our own distribution and warehousing facilities or by an external lab. Once products are delivered to our distribution and warehousing facilities, as a safety precaution, we always performs our own product sample analysis before accepting a delivery and also prior to shipment. All of this collected information is shared with both the supplier and customers, as requested, to ensure open communications. 

Transparent supply chain

Our supply chain has been carefully developed to meet the demands of our customers for a great variety of pet food ingredients at a certain cost and quality level. These range from widely used ingredients, such as chicken, beef, sweet potato and potato mix, to more specific ingredients, such as lamb meal or omega-3 sources like salmon oil, fish oil blends or algae DHA. Many of our customers, as well as pet parents, want to know where a product comes from, including details on such aspects as quality, sustainability and animal welfare. We recognize the importance of transparency in the supply chain to ensure our customers know exactly what they are buying. 

Download our vision paper

To learn more about the vision and strategy of IQI Trusted Petfood Ingredients, please download our vision paper. 

About Chad Helberg

Chad Helberg is IQI Trusted Petfood Ingredients’ Director Global Purchasing responsible for the end-to-end supply chain of pet food ingredients and building a long term relationship with suppliers. Chad has over 25 years’ experience in sourcing and purchasing of ingredients for different companies in the international pet food industry. 

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