Patented technology supplies Australian pet food ingredients to the world

Pet owners are constantly assessing the many food choices available to feed their furry friends. Prepared pet foods are becoming an increasingly popular choice, offering a variety of food types and flavours while meeting nutritional requirements.

With a growing reputation for providing safe, consistent and nutritious pet food, the Australian pet food industry is valued at approximately $1.6 billion with opportunities growing within both Australian and export markets.

Cool Off is the pet food raw material manufacturing division of Staughton Group, which is an Australian, family-owned company with manufacturing facilities in Walget, New South Wales, St George in Queensland and its head office and main manufacturing plant located in Howlong in southern NSW.

Staughton Group oversees the manufacture of bulk raw materials for the pet food industry, as well as retail pet foods and supplements for domestic and export sales. Staughton Group also sources and processes wild game proteins through its recently acquired Wild Game Resources Australia.

Offering unique access to Australian raw materials for pet food manufacture, Cool Off delivers high-quality products including: lamb Mechanically De-boned Meat (MDM), plate-frozen offals, boutique meat meals and natural dried treats – sourcing its red meat offal raw material from more than 30 abattoirs across Australia, processing more than 150 tonnes of raw material per day.

As market opportunities continued to grow, Cool Off designed innovative new technology to help meet this increasing consumer demand.

Automated plate freezing
To help maintain a high quality product, Cool Off developed a unique offal collection process that involved installation of a customised collection and chilling unit onsite at the abattoir. This enabled Cool Off to control all aspects of quality from the onset, providing a dedicated focus on quality of the pet food products, with minimal abattoir labour input. This system has been installed at over 30 Australian abattoirs.

Once the offal was processed, it was pumped into large plate freezers, with the capacity to hold 2000 kg of product, and frozen at -20˚C. The product is then unloaded and palletised for delivery to pet food manufacturers. In the past, this was a labour-intensive process that required manual handling by operators. To increase throughput and limit manual handling requirements, Cool Off, together with VK Logic, designed a new automated plate freezing system. VK Logic has a longstanding relationship with Cool Off, resulting in a detailed understanding of the plate-freezing process. Justin Van Klaveren, managing director at VK Logic, explained that in order to meet increasing customer supply contracts, Cool Off undertook some expansion work at the plant that included building works and new freezer panel rooms.

“There wasn’t a simple, automated unload process for the large plate freezers so together with Cool Off, we placed an arrangement of pneumatically actuated panels and built plate freezer apparatus to utilise the existing infrastructure to release each block one by one down the plate onto a common conveyor belt, eliminating the requirement for manual handling,” said Van Klaveren.

“Given that margins for pet food are not near margins for human consumption, the opportunity for automation becomes more important,” Van Klaveren added.

High-performance architecture
Combining integrated control and safety, the Allen-Bradley GuardLogix was selected as the most appropriate choice for this application. The Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture system, including PowerFlex 527 drives with safety over Ethernet, offered an innovative, modular design to support fast and easy installation and configuration. These compact drives also offered embedded EtherNet/IP communications and standard safety features.

The Allen-Bradley Kinetix servo drives provided advanced motion control for the system and the capability to standardise on a single communications network for easier commissioning, configuration and start up. A FactoryTalk View SE human machine interface (HMI) was used to monitor and control the plant. To help with remote assistance and maintenance, VK Logic had VPN access to the site.

“We saw an opportunity in terms of that single platform with safety over Ethernet. The PowerFlex drives provided an integrated solution with motion, drives and safety all on the one common platform. This helped reduce engineering time and ongoing maintenance requirements,” explained Van Klaveren.

Rockwell Automation authorised distributor, NHP Electrical Engineering, supported this project by identifying the most appropriate equipment to meet the application requirements. According to Jason Campbell, business development – automation at NHP, “There’s no technology that rivals this new patented system. The solution allowed Cool Off to increase throughput, reduce downtime and redeploy operators that were doing manual labour.”

The new automated plate freezing system improved throughput and reduced manual handling requirements.

Patented innovation to meet consumer demand
Cool Off’s patented plate freezing technology was the product of intelligent engineering and problem solving – resulting in an increase in plate freezing capacity by 120 per cent. The technology and innovation around the plate-freezer design was developed together with VK Logic, a business with a growing reputation for “out of box” thinking for large and small projects alike.

The plant is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week as there is significant demand for the product. With consumer demand continually increasing, Cool Off was recently awarded a government grant to double capacity of the plant.

Edward Staughton, managing director of Cool Off and Staughton Group, highlights the significant advantages the company enjoys over international and domestic competitors via its technology: “The quality and freshness of red meat offal products collected from supplying abattoirs and delivered daily to Cool Off at Howlong is guaranteed via the unique chilling system installed at supplying abattoirs. This patented system was developed by Cool Off and VK Logic, using experience gained over 20 years of collecting offals from abattoirs located throughout Eastern Australia. The system ensures all product from abattoirs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia can be delivered in any season over long distances and maintain its freshness.”

Staughton has inspected many plate freezing systems throughout Europe and America. “The development of our patented automated plate freezing system, in combination with the abattoir chilling system, has given the Cool Off production team a massive international competitive advantage in quality and processing efficiency,” said Staughton.

“Three staff are able to fill, freeze, palletise and warehouse 50 tonnes (pallets) of product in an eight hour shift, which, combined with freeze time of two and a half hours, ensures maximum freshness of all products. With the plate freezers being fully Cleaning in Place (CIP), cleaning time is minimal. I have seen nothing internationally that compares with this system.”

“Cool Off is highly appreciative of the combined efforts of VK Logic and Rockwell Automation in enabling the development, and now the ‘bedded down’ operation, of technologies which are unmatched by international competitors. Cool Off looks forward to working with both these innovative and progressive companies to roll out further R&D projects that currently sit in the company’s pipe-line,” said Staughton.

Pet owners are shifting the way they shop for their furry friends

Online food options for pets have increased as consumers have shifted how they shop for their furry companions, Nielsen indicates.

The global measurement and data analytics company explains that given the plethora of choice across the market, from outlets such as local pet stores, big box retailers, vet clinics and online retailers, as well as the pace of change across channels and formats, it’s critical for brands and marketers to keep a multichannel approach to sales.

Across Nielsen’s omnichannel universe, the US spent almost $33 billion on pet food and treats in the last year.

Compared with a year ago, this represents an increase of 5 per cent, or $1.5 billion in sales.

READ: Chinese investors buy The Real Pet Food Company

Although volume growth has been slow for the pet sector, pet food and treats are still driving much-needed growth to the overall fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) space, particularly in the online retail landscape.

Relative to the 5 per cent growth across online and offline pet consumables, e-commerce sales of pet consumables increased 53 per cent this year.

The online growth figures alone might set alarm bells ringing for brick-and-mortar pet retailers, but consumers aren’t flat-out abandoning physical stores in favour of e-commerce.

According to Nielsen’s Digital Shopping Fundamentals research, one-in-two pet owners indicate that they don’t ever plan to shop for or purchase pet items online.

Although vet clinics, pet superstores and neighborhood pet stores are seeing reduced sales overall, mainstream and neighborhood pet retailers continue to find ways to resonate with pet owners and post modest growth alongside the rapid growth of online sales.

This year, upwards of $16 billion in pet food flew through mainstream brick-and-mortar doors, up nearly 2 per cent from a year ago.

Consumption has slowed, with tonnage of pet food by the pound down 1 per cent in this same timeframe.

In many cases, this uptick in sales can be linked to the influx of premium pet food brands on mainstream-store shelves.

Much like people food, consumers no longer have to go far to find a premium assortment of pet products for their furry, scaly and feathered friends, Nielsen explains.

Chinese investors buy The Real Pet Food Company

The majority owner of the Real Pet Food Company, Quadrant Private Equity, has announced that it has entered into an agreement to divest its interest in the Company to a partnership comprising some of the Asia-Pacific’s leading investors.

The transaction, which is subject to FIRB approval, values the Real Pet Food Company at $1 billion.

The partner group is led by Hosen Capital, a leading private equity firm based in Beijing, together with China’s largest private agribusiness enterprise New Hope Group, and Singapore investment company, Temasek.

Quadrant Private Equity invested into the Real Pet Food Company in June 2015 alongside the founding Quinn family and management. Since then, the Company has grown significantly through innovation in brands, products and markets across ranges such as Nature’s Gift, Nature’s Goodness, Farmers Market, Billy + Margot, Ivory Coat and Jimbos.

The new partner group will continue to drive innovation and growth in Australia and New Zealand, alongside the Quinn family and management. The partners will also take advantage of their regional and international operations to help grow the Real Pet Food Company internationally.

“Everybody wins…” said David Grant, the CEO of the Real Pet Food Company. “For the past two years Quadrant have supported us to grow strongly in our home markets. Now our Asia- Pacific partners are ideally suited to support us as we look to take our success to the Chinese and North American markets.”

“Our products being Australian-made gives us a significant advantage. Our provenance will be important as we grow offshore. All the while, we will maintain our passion and focus on being be the best, most caring and innovative, pet food company in Australia and New Zealand.”

“This is a logical next step for a real local success story. Our partners share a common vision for the Real Pet Food Company. The opportunity to each bring our respective capabilities will help the company accelerate its growth and open new market opportunities,” said Nick Dowling, CEO of New Hope Group in Australia & New Zealand and spokesperson for the partner group.


Applaws expands premium pet food range in Woolies

Applaws Pet Food has released four additional products which are now available in selected Woolworths stores nationally, following the growing success of the brand in its stores.

Tony Emmerson, GM at MPM Products/Applaws, said Australian pet owners want to feed their pets natural food from brands they can trust.

“Applaws’ mission is simple. We want every pet owner to have easy access to specialist quality pet food at a fair price – so that every pet can be their best,” said Emmerson.

“Pet food shelves are confusing and price does not always mean a better product. Our dry food is among the best quality on the supermarket shelves. More and more Aussies are realising this. Pet owners are telling us their wonderful success stories – this has been key to fuelling our success and the expansion of our range in grocery.”

Emmerson said each new food has a unique flavour profile, making it ideal for providing variety in a dog’s diet.

“We are now able to offer Woolworths shoppers a wider variety of flavours in our dry food and brand new on shelf will be the Applaws wet dog food which is designed to complement a dry food diet. Our wet food is made from 100% natural, human grade meat and we will even eat it ourselves to prove to people just how natural it is. There is nothing else on the pet food shelves like this,” he said.

The company promises natural products, grain-free dry food and only the finest quality of meat. The recipes do not contain fillers, additives or preservatives. All the ingredients used in each recipe are chosen for the benefit of dogs.

Qld pet treat manufacturer expands exports

Sunshine Coast pet treat business Huds and Toke has expanded into the Japanese market, after receiving a government grant in April.

The family business started four years ago, manufacturing high-quality dog, horse and cat treats in Queensland.

After receiving $90,000 under the state government’s Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund, the company has made plans to invest in building a supply chain and an e-commerce platform to boost its exports.

The company has announced it will enter the Japanese pet industry market within a week. Huds and Toke currently delivers to more than 800 stores throughout Australia and exports to Germany.

According to Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch, small business is “where all the action will be in the future”.

“Big businesses are not employing the way they used to and small business is where we will see the greatest number of employment opportunities in the future,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Cat food recalled following health scare

The Best Feline Friend range of cat food, made by an American manufacturer, has been recalled from Australian pet owners, following reports that it has made pets ill.

As the SMH reports, the move follows posts made on online forums by pet owners that claimed their pets became ill after consuming the ‘gourmet’ products.

The products are distributed in Australia by Petbarn.

Weruva posted a statement on its website which reads: “We have recently been made aware of select Best Feline Friend (BFF) canned foods, exclusive to the Australian market, which may have been produced outside of intended formulation guidelines.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in partnership with our exclusive retailer of these goods, Petbarn has removed BFF canned items from shelves in Australia until our analysis is complete. The facility for this exclusive BFF canned food does not produce BFF foods for any other global market or any other Weruva-branded foods.”

Petbarn said on its Facebook page that it would refund all purchases of the products.


Qld kangaroo meat processing ramps up with new facilty

Barco Queensland has opened a new kangaroo meat processing plant in Charleville to produce meat for human consumption and pet food.

The company has secured contracts to supply to food service, small goods companies and an Australian independent supermarket chain.

Barco Queensland is owned by Gold Coast-based pet food manufacturer Millennium Pet Foods. The plant will start out processing 1000 kangaroos per week, however general manager Daniel McGettigan expects this number to quadruple.

“The demand is very big, very big,” McGettigan told the ABC.

“I really, personally think in a matter of a few months we could be killing 3000 to 4000 ‘roos a week and not have any trouble dispersing of the product.”

Barco Queensland intends to produce kangaroo meat for human consumption and pet food.

The company is currently supplying cuts directly for food service in Sydney, and remains such as trim for small goods companies that distribute to Brisbane and Sydney. It has also secured contracts with wholesale produce distributor Metcash, which owns IGA supermarkets.

Additionally, the abattoir is processing 30 to 40 wild boars each week, which go direct into food service in Sydney.

McGettigan believes infrastructure upgrades and the installation of more chiller boxes around the region would help increase processing in the abattoir.

Pay rise for Dubbo pet food factory workers

Workers at the Real Pet Food factory in Dubbo have won pay rises of up to 30 per cent in a new union agreement.

A four-year agreement was negotiated between the Real Pet Food Company and Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, resulting in pay rises for its (approximate) 100 employees.

Depending on their shift, some workers could be paid as much as $260 extra each week, according to the union.

All employees won a pay rise of 4.5 per cent in the first year of the agreement, on top of a reclassification that increased wages by 2 per cent.

Pay rises in the years following will result in a 12 per cent pay increase over the timeframe of the agreement.

Furthermore, the agreement includes penalty rates for workers covering afternoon and evening shifts; 15 per cent loading for the afternoon shift and 30 per cent for the evening shift.

Other benefits include recognition of union delegates, improved arbitration measures and better protection from unfair dismissals.

The site was previously non-union, with workers joining last year in order to improve pay and conditions at the factory.

A big pawprint: The environmental impact of pet food

Pet food is an industry worth nearly US$25 billion in the United States. Owners make decisions about what to feed their pets based on marketing, personal beliefs and pet preference. And as with human nutrition, it can be hard to sort out truth from fads and marketing from science. The Conversation

Current pet food trends encourage owners to feed their pets much the same foods that humans eat: high-quality “human grade” meat and organic produce, maybe even some “superfoods.” While this approach is emotionally appealing, it is not necessary for pets’ health, nor is it environmentally sustainable.

Pets can have a large ecological footprint, and their food is a big contributing factor. Sustainable living experts Robert and Brenda Vale suggest in their book “Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living” that a medium-size dog could have a similar footprint to a large SUV. Other experts have come to similar conclusions about the sustainability of feeding pets.

Our Clinical Nutrition Team at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University recently published a Pet Food IQ quiz written by three board-certified veterinary nutritionists. As the quiz demonstrates, there are many myths about feeding pets, and cats’ and dogs’ nutritional needs are different from human needs in some important ways. By understanding these differences, owners can keep their pets healthy while minimizing impacts on the environment.

  • It’s all about the meat. Making pet food takes a lot of animal protein, and the current trend is to feed our pets high-meat diets. Typical dog foods contain 20 to 40 percent protein, while cat foods range from 30 to 60 percent, much of it from animal sources. Meat-based diets for humans and animals alike have much larger ecological footprints than plant-based diets, because it takes lots of land, water and food to feed pigs, cows, sheep, poultry and farmed fish.
This may be your ideal, but it’s not necessary for pets.
  • By-products are sustainable and healthy for animals to consume. The best way to feed our pets meat-based diets with minimal footprints is to use every part of the animals we slaughter for human food, including organs. These ingredients (which do not include hair, horns, teeth or intestinal contents), often collectively termed “by-products,” can be very good-quality sources of nutrients that pets enjoy. While the pet food industry is well aware of this issue, many companies persist in telling pet owners that by-products should be avoided to make their own diets more appealing.
  • What’s good for humans isn’t always ideal or necessary for pets. Some manufacturers use the term “human-grade” to describe pet food or ingredients, but the phrase has no legal meaning and does not necessarily connote anything about quality or nutritional value. To be sold as food for humans, a product must never leave the human food production chain. While this requirement sounds good, it adds unnecessary cost and may eliminate the use of many high-quality, sustainable ingredients that people normally don’t eat. Pets need good-quality food, but they don’t have to compete for the same steak their owner is buying when they will happily and healthily eat organ meats or less-pretty trimmings.
Obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs in North America.
Dale/Flickr, CC BY
  • Cats and dogs can eat diets containing properly cooked grain and other plant ingredients. Contrary to many reports, there are no documented health benefits to feeding pets a grain-free diet or one that avoids other plant ingredients. According to a recent study, one of the main genetic differences between dogs and wolves is that dogs have an increased ability to obtain nutrients from grains and other plants. Current grain-free diet trends are about selling pet food, not about pet health, and can lead to less sustainable diets.
  • But vegetarian and vegan diets aren’t always the best choices, either. Although some human vegetarians and vegans choose their diets based on sustainability concerns as well as animal welfare, dogs and especially cats generally do best with at least some animal products in their diets. While eggs and dairy can be good options, strict vegan diets may cause health problems for pets. Dogs are omnivores and more flexible, but cats are true carnivores and have special nutrient needs that are hard to meet with plants alone. Thus, cats should be fed diets that contain animal protein and other animal-sourced nutrients.
  • One easy way to reduce the environmental impact of pet food is to use less of it. Obesity is a major problem for pets as well as for humans in the United States, and the root cause of most weight gain is eating more calories than needed.

The bottom line is that choices about your pet’s diet can have implications for its health, your wallet and the planet. You can have both a healthy and more sustainable approach by feeding your dog or cat diets that contain moderate amounts of meat and use animal by-products, and feeding your pet only the amount of food it needs to maintain a healthy lean body weight.

Cailin Heinze, Assistant Professor of Nutrition, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Paleopups and paleopussies: is a paleodiet for your pet a step too far?

Will 2016 be the year the world finally lost interest in the paleodiet? Believe it or not, it’s already happened! ‘Peak-paleo’ passed without notice way back in January 2014.

We’re often a little behind the global trends down-under, so Australia’s own peak-paleo occurred almost two years after the rest of the planet. This might explain why the media here still bends over backwards to give celebrity chef Pete Evans and other prominent paleodieters so much limelight.

Still, it’s been a steady decline in interest ever since, and the paleodiet, like the real Paleolithic Era before it, is on the slow road to extinction. But whose to blame for its failure to convince us it holds the answers to all our health and lifestyle needs?

I genuinely believe there is something to the idea that we can learn from our evolutionary past about how to live today. It’s just that the paleodiet fad with its mix of blatant buck making and oddball conspiracy theories has hijacked any science there may have been behind it.

We can point the finger at the high priests of the paleodiet cult themselves who are, afterall, just another segment of the food industry. A sector made up of self-appointed nutrition, health and evolution experts with a disdain for science and the people who conduct it.

In their seemingly ever desperate quest to sell us stuff straight out of the Stone Age, paleodieters have come up with some rather creative food lines.

As we all know, artificially sweetened soft drinks were all the rage in the Paleolithic. Archaeologists have discovered hundreds of fossilised soft drink cans from ancient sites all around the globe.

And remember the furore when the paleopilgrims told us to start feeding our newborns paleo baby formula? There we even calls for paleoparents to be put in jail.

Now we’re told that our pets should be paleopuppies and paleopussies because, as one prominent website puts it, “the consequences of the modern lifestyle are largely the same in pets as in humans”.

In their usual glib way, the advice they dish out for pets is as ill-informed as it is for humans: “A good place to start your research is by looking up what your pet eats in the wild, and slowly introducing those foods into its regular diet, making sure to keep a close eye out for any digestive symptoms”.

Through the process of evolution over thousands of years all of the animals we have domesticated, from dogs and cats to sheep, pigs and goats have changed from their wild ancestors.

Take dogs, the first animal we domesticated from wolves during the Paleolithic, perhaps as far back as 40 thousand years ago, and at several places at different times.

Ever since, they’ve been evolving alongside us to live as we do and to eat a diet a lot like our own. Some scientists even think dogs were responsible for domesticating us!

Studies of the dog genome have shown that domestication affected two main kinds of genes: ones affecting dog behaviour and the nervous system and genes involved in digestion and diet.

Through a combination of artificial and natural selection dogs have evolved to eat starch, unlike wolves, which have a largely carnivorous diet. Dogs have five times as many copies of the AMY2B gene which is dedicated to producing starch digesting enzymes in their pancreas.

If we study the various dogs breeds around the globe there’s also a clear pattern where larger numbers of copies of AMY2B are found in locations where agriculture spread during prehistory. The dogs bred by farmers are the best at eating and digesting grains and they have the genes to back it all up.

Dogs eat starch, wolves don’t, but starch from grains is simply not allowed on the paleodiet for humans or pets.

Cats on the other hand have a completely different history of domestication compared to dogs. Cats were domesticated much later, with the earliest examples of moggies found just 10 thousand years ago in Cyprus.

Most of the 30-40 cat breeds seen today were only bred during the last 150 years and before this surge in cat popularity there were only around half a dozen cat breeds recognised globally.

With dogs though, some breeds are thousands, other perhaps even tens of thousands, of years old. They have a very deep ancestry back into the mists of prehistory.

The much younger age for cat domestication means that unlike dogs their diet is much more like their wild precursors. This explains why cats are much more carnivorous than their canine house mates.

The big problem in advocating paleopet food is that our pets are no longer wild animals. If we attempt to replicate their evolutionary past, in complete ignorance of how they lived and ate, we might be doing them a lot more harm than good.

The Conversation

Darren Curnoe, Chief Investigator and Co-Leader of Education and Engagement Program ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, and Director, Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre, UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Image: Wikimedia Commons – Craig, Hugh, CC BY-SA

Pet food in Australia – not quite a dog’s breakfast

Australia’s pet owners have become increasingly conscious of providing their pets with the best possible life – a view that has been clearly demonstrated in the major trends seen in the sale of pet food, writes Branko Miletic.

In monetary terms, according to Galaxy Research, Australian pet owners are spending over $3 billion on pet food a year. Dog food accounts for more than half of this at $1.6 billion, or 53 per cent. Cat food also comprises a significant proportion at $1.1 billion or 36 per cent of all pet food sales. Together, dog and cat food represent almost 90 per cent of all pet food expenditure.

These figures are hardly surprising since there are estimated to be more than 25 million pets in Australia – more than there are people – with nearly 5 million of Australia’s 7.6 million households home to pets. At 63 per cent off the population, Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world.

From the horse’s mouth

FMCG analysts Euromonitor International has also found that Australians have a strong emotional attachment to and value their companion animals, with most people considering them members of the family.

At the same time, the global financial crisis had a profound effect on Australian household spending and savings patterns. While the Australian economy never dropped into recession, job certainty was no longer assumed and Australians started spending less and saving more.

This reversed the steadily declining household savings rate, a trend which had been in place since the 1970s.

Euromonitor International has also noted that consumer spending cut backs have been most noticeable when it comes to discretionary spending. However, after looking at all the figures, one sector that seems largely impervious to these economic downturns is pet food. In fact, pet food has been compared to baby food due to its resilient performance.

Paw-sing to read the trends

According to The Animal Health Alliance and their latest Pet Ownership Report, there are a number of trends that are clearly visible in Australia when it comes pet food.


Consumers are prepared to spend more on their pets, which has seen pet food become increasingly sophisticated, particularly in the premium end of the market. Sales of premium dog and cat food products have continued to grow steadily over the past five years, with seven per cent year on year growth in current value terms.

This premiumisation of pet food is impacting the economy and mid-priced segments of the market, which are expected to come under increasing pressure as consumers trade up to premium products.


Packaging has become more sophisticated to reflect the premium offerings and key selling points. For wet pet food, product offerings have tended to move away from large pack sizes to multi-pack single serve portions. To make premium products more affordable, premium dry dog and cat food has increasingly become available in large air tight resealable packs.

This has provided an attractive option for pet owners wanting to economise without sacrificing quality. In non-grocery channels the 3kg pack size is more common, compared to 500g to 1.5kg seen more predominantly in grocery retailers.

Dry pet food is most commonly packaged in flexible plastic and does not yet reflect the trend towards more sustainable packaging options.

Health and Wellness

Just as Australians have become more conscious of having a healthy lifestyle and diet, so too have these become considerations when it comes to buying pet food. Health and wellness claims have become more common in the pet food sector, a trend that is occurring at all price points, including private label offerings.

An increasing number of products boast added vitamins and minerals, and/or that they address specific health concerns. These include weight control, dental hygiene and digestive health. The idea of all-natural, preservative – free and organic products has also permeated the pet food market.


The market has become more and more segmented to offer pet owners products that address specific needs or concerns. This includes the development of products targeted to cats and dogs at different life stages, such as puppy/kitten, ‘mature’ and ‘senior’.

The health and wellness trend has also driven segmentation in pet foods, with different product offerings such as weight control, dental hygiene and digestive health now commonplace.

Private Label

Private label pet food offerings have increased alongside a range of other product categories on supermarket shelves, and in 2011 accounted for 10.7 per cent of all pet food sales. Woolworths has the largest share of the private label market, and the sixth largest share (2.4 per cent) of the total pet food market.

Grabbing the issue by the tail

According to Duncan Hall from the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA), there are many other factors that have had a direct influence on the choice and type of pet food Australians are purchasing.

“There has been a profound change in the past 20 years in the type of pet food sold in this country,” said Hall.

This is directly related to the types and sizes of pets Australians are now keeping.

“A lot of new pet foods out there are in response to the types of pets we have,” said Hall.

“For example, due to the popularity of certain small dog breeds, we have seen a move away from the large dog food portions to smaller, single serve sizes.”

“However, a lot of pet food trends also mirror the trends we have been experiencing with human foods – like the move to all-natural foods as one example.”

“There are also new types of pet foods that have been developed in response to veterinarians’ requirements for foods that help pet recovery and recuperation from illness and injury.”

Hall also noted that the channels for distribution for pet food sales have increased.

“It’s moved away from just being able to buy pet food in the supermarket to purchasing pet food in pet specialty stores and barns, from the vet and also online,” he said.

The need for proper labelling

Much like with human foods, then there is the issue of labelling.

According to Hall, the pet food manufacturing industry has worked in conjunction with a number of groups including the RSPCA, veterinarians, pet food manufacturers and Standards Australia to come up with a national standard for pet food labelling, also known as AS5182: Manufacturing & Marketing of Pet Food.

“AS5182 was developed to promote prepared pet food as the preferred method of pet nutrition reinforced through the establishment and self-regulation of industry standards,” noted Hall, who added that the “PFIAA was instrumental in establishing AS5812.”

So whichever way you cut and dice the pet food trends in Australia, one thing is for sure – this country will continue to provide a standard of food to its millions of beloved four and two legged friends that is second to none.

Pet food & large packages leak / seal tester

SealTick TSE 6089L is an on-demand leak testing unit for pet food and pet care products specifically in large size packages up to 22Kg. 

The Sealtick TSE 6089L is already in use around the world for testing a wide range of food products, and the operation of 6089L is fast, simple and safe. A quantitative result is written into the internal log.  

Logs can be retrieved by connecting via USB, or optional Ethernet, for quality traceability. Different products can be selected on the controller and tested using a product specific test procedure. 

The key benefit of using SealTick leak testers is that they do not stress or inflate the tested package, is a dry and non-destructive solution to cope with a wide range of shapes and sizes of finished goods. 

User requires minimum training to operate this package leak tester. The instrument is switched on only to be connected to air and power, and it is ready to test when the lid is opened. 

Place a package in, close the lid to initiate the test, and within as short as 20 seconds the test is finished and a pass or fail indicator will be lit up to tell the user if there is any leakage on the tested packaging.

The stainless steel construction also makes it ideal for use in a food production environment. 

The convenience food industry making our pets fat

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been under a cloud in recent years as its US customers turn to alternatives. In this “Fast food reinvented” series we explore what the sector is doing to keep customers hooked and sales rising.

Commercial dry foods are the ultimate “convenience food” for pets. They are manufactured by the same companies that make such foods for humans, specifically Mars (Masterfood, Uncle Bens, Royal Canin), Nestle (Nestle-Purina, Friskies), and Proctor and Gamble (Iams and Eukamuba). The other big player (Hills) is owned by Colgate Palmolive.

These convenience food giants don’t just make staple diets, but also expensive treats (beef and chicken jerky and desiccated liver) that cost more per gram than fillet steak.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has endorsed overseas policy guidelines that recommend feeding commercially prepared dry and canned food to cats and dogs. This is in stark contrast to how veterinarians and animal nutritionists feed carnivores in zoos.

Why the difference?

In zoos, big cats (lions, tigers, etc.) and wild dogs (dingoes, wolves) are fed predominantly fresh meat on the bone, to mimic what occurs in nature. Typically, whole chicken or turkey carcasses and portions (usually limbs) of cows and sheep comprise the major portions of the ration. Fresh meat, some offal and fresh bones are all normal food constituents in nature.

This ration requires vigorous mastication, as is the case when a carnivore dines in nature. Eating such tucker is hard work but clearly pleasurable. When finally satiated, carnivores generally have a long nap. For ethical reasons, we cannot reproduce the thrill of “the kill” when keeping carnivores in captivity, but we can certainly reproduce the enjoyment of a “natural feed”. Tearing apart flesh and stripping it off the bone is a physiologic way to “floss”, reducing plaque and calculus which otherwise build up on teeth. The mouth and digestive system of carnivores has adapted over millennia to this type of diet.

Cats, like their larger relatives, are hypercarnivores – carnivores who have evolved through natural selection to eat the flesh and bones of prey animals exclusively. The only carbohydrate normally eaten is in the liver and intestinal tract of prey. Dogs are carnivores, although they have less stringent nutritional requirements. One might therefore think that the ideal food for cats and dogs would include regular portions of fresh meat on the bone.

Why then are most commercial foods for cats and dogs dry extruded rations based on plant carbohydrates, with added fat, minerals and hydrolysed protein? And why do most veterinarians recommend such diets?


Domestic cats, like their wild relatives, benefit from a diet of raw meat and bones. Image sourced from

Marketing machine

My view is that our profession has been misdirected by the exceptionally clever marketing of multinational pet food manufacturers. In the human arena, such companies are often called “big food” and “big soda”.

Dry extruded diets are clean, convenient, have a long shelf-life, are easy to serve and store. They don’t need to be bought fresh every few days. They contain a lot of goodness and are balanced for vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. Indeed, as a component of a balanced diet, “premium dry food” has much to offer (more for dogs than cats and particularly for growing animals). But they tend to be consumed quickly, with little effort. If they are fed without careful portion control, you quickly end up with a fat pet.

The coating with tasty oils makes this food irresistible, just like salted potato crisps are to us. But it doesn’t have the physical qualities to remove calculus from teeth and many have excess carbohydrate and insufficient protein, especially for hypercarnivores. Cats fed these diets exclusively have the propensity to develop diabetes, obesity and osteoarthritis.

Pet food manufacturers provide most of the money for nutritional research in companion animals. They thus control the research agenda, and the “evidence base” for canine and feline nutrition. They donate money and products and sponsor functions at veterinary schools, thereby subliminally influencing the feeding practices of impressionable young vets and their teachers. They fund also clinical nutrition lectureships and residencies. University management appear unconcerned by this arrangement. Pet food companies also sponsor seminars, webinars and sessions at scientific meetings. They run advertisements in leading veterinary journals and are a major sponsor of the AVA.

The final masterstroke of pet food companies is that they enlist veterinarians to actually sell, and thereby endorse these diets, right in the waiting rooms of their hospitals.

It doesn’t need to be this way. The concerted efforts of a number of forward-thinking veterinary scientists have meant that Australasian pet owners probably feed more raw meaty bones as part of a balanced ration than in many countries overseas. This is commendable. But we have some way to go.

Richard Malik, Veterinary Internist (Specialist), University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.