Optimal nutrition focus of collaborative pet food project

From left Dr David Thomas, Director, Centre for Feline Nutrition, Massey University and AgResearch Senior Research scientist Dr Emma Bermingham.

A team led by AgResearch Senior Research Scientist Dr Emma Bermingham will undertake a three year research project to assist New Zealand’s red meat pet food industry to grow their super-premium exports.

This project has been funded in the recently announced Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2015 science investment round, with contributions from three local pet food companies.

Dr Bermingham says that pet food is a fast-growing food market segment, with global sales estimated at US$76 billion annually.

“There is increasing consumer demand for premium, red meat pet foods, but evidence of the benefits of these foods for pet health has been largely anecdotal.

“In collaboration with the Centre for Feline Nutrition at Massey University we will investigate the nutritional benefits of New Zealand red meat pet foods because the local industry needs scientific evidence to support their development of new super-premium products and therefore boost global exports. Benefits from this project will also extend to New Zealand sheep, beef and venison farmers by diverting meat cuts that are currently achieving lower value returns into branded premium products.”

The research plan was co-developed with red meat pet food manufacturers Bombay Petfoods Ltd, K9 Natural Ltd and ZiwiPeak Ltd.

“These are passionate, innovative entrepreneurs who, despite being competitors, are willing to collaborate in research and development that will benefit the entire New Zealand pet food industry,” says Dr Bermingham.

You don’t need to be a big player to invest in the best R&D New Zealand can offer says Director of ZiwiPeak Ltd Nigel Woodd.

“We now have a fantastic opportunity to give pet owners and their vets the information they need to make good choices about pet nutrition and to develop New Zealand’s premium position within this significant and growing market.”

General Manager of Bombay Petfoods Ltd Dave Allan says that his company has been in the market for almost 50 years and during that time their customers have been telling them that New Zealand red meat has great health benefits for pets.

“It is time to prove it with science and take advantage of the opportunity this will present for New Zealand,” he says.

Pets face many of the same nutritional and health problems as humans, such as obesity and diabetes, and they are living longer.

“Customers worldwide want to be more informed about the nutritional needs of their pets,” says K9 Natural Ltd Chief Executive Officer Neil Hinton.

“Pets are viewed as part of the family and their well-being in life is important to many owners. Being able to unlock the New Zealand quality grass-fed meat story with proven science on its nutritional and health benefits will be a huge opportunity and a real win for the industry.”