Trouw Pet Nutrition Outlook - Specialty Blends

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Overcoming Production Challenges

In this sixth edition of the Trouw Pet Nutrition Outlook, Dr. Trevor Faber, Director of Nutrition & Technical Services; and Dr. Tayler Hansen, Companion Animal Nutritionist; explore the unique Specialty Blend options available to pet food manufacturers that can facilitate nutritional goals not easily realized by traditional premixes and base blends.

Dr. Faber supervises the nutrition and formulation team for Trouw Nutrition’s Companion Animal Division, oversees premix formulation and provides technical assistance to Trouw Nutrition’s pet food customers to ensure the nutritional adequacy and function of their premixes and base blends.

In support of product development and staying ahead of industry trends, he leads the Trouw Nutrition Companion Animal Innovation Team, comprised of industry and academic experts. As the U.S. representative to Trouw Nutrition’s Global Cross-Species Council, Dr. Faber contributes to the development of the company’s strategic planning for new products and innovations around the world.

Before joining Trouw Nutrition, Dr. Faber worked his way up from Product Development Scientist to the Global R&D team at a major pet food manufacturer. There, he assisted with diet formulation, international product development and developing research projects to further advance the companion animal industry and broaden the company’s knowledge base.

Dr. Hansen reports to Dr. Faber and assists Trouw Nutrition customers with formulation, technical assistance, training and education. She supports the Companion Animal Division with the development of science-backed nutritional and ingredient strategies, business cases for new products and services, and prioritizing new initiatives.

Dr. Hansen possesses a strong scientific background, including 10 years in animal nutrition labs, developing laboratory protocols, managing research projects, and authoring nine peer-reviewed journal articles and 37 conference abstracts.



Specialty Blends may include vitamins, minerals and functional ingredients combined in very small inclusion rates. Trouw Nutrition takes extra precautions to ensure the safe and consistent dispersion of these ingredients throughout the final pet food premix. Specialty Blends, which vary in terms of unique needs or characteristics, include Micro-Batch Sizes, Raw Diet Premixes, Post-Extrusion Blends, and Microbial-Sensitive Blending to name a few.

Micro-Batch Sizes

One challenge that typically requires Specialty Blends is customers testing new products. Testing a new product generally requires a far smaller quantity of premix or blend than the amount required for a conventional product run. Startup pet food manufacturers may also require Micro-Batch Sizes as they have yet to achieve the market demand to justify large production runs.

Some pet food premix and blend manufacturers lack the small mixers necessary to accurately blend small batch sizes (<150 kg). In this scenario, the premix manufacturer would be forced to produce far more product than the pet food manufacturer requires in order to achieve the target mixer fill needed to create a uniform premix. With premix in excess, the pet food manufacturer may have to dispose of the surplus, thereby wasting funds on unneeded product.

Currently, Trouw Nutrition can produce Specialty Blends as small as 150 kilos, but recognizing the growing demand of startups, new product testing for current customers and continued focus on Microbial-Sensitive Blends, Trouw Nutrition invested in building a $12.1 million facility to better serve the unique and growing needs of its customers.

Appropriately named the Blending Innovation CenterTM, the building features innovative blending technology to produce Micro-Batch Sizes and other Speciality Blends.

The advanced blending system uses enclosed bulk containers to thoroughly mix premixes and Specialty Blends. The bulk containers vary in size, enabling Trouw Nutrition to accommodate a range of batch sizes.


This double-ribbon mixer can blend pet food premixes as small as 150 kilos, giving start-ups and companies testing new products the flexibility they need.

Trouw Nutrition’s new Blending Innovation Center adds 32,052 square feet to the company’s existing 8,100-squarefoot Pilot Plant.

trouw nutrition
Sizes Raw Diet Premixes Post-Extrusion Blends Microbial-Sensitive Blending

Raw Diet Premixes

As consumer demand for raw diets increases, pet food manufacturers seek to enter the market, but by definition, raw diets cannot go through a cooking step, such as extrusion or a retort process. Raw diets appeal to many pet parents who are concerned about processed foods and providing a more “natural” diet, contributing to its perception as healthy, whole foods.

Without extrusion, retort or another heat process, raw diets lack a “kill step,” which eliminates harmful pathogens. Without the “kill step,” raw diets are more likely to be contaminated with pathogens, putting pet food manufacturers at risk of a food recall. On average, a food recall incurs $10 million in direct costs, not counting the damage to the brand and lost sales, according to a joint study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The lack of a “kill step” makes sourcing ingredients for raw diets a significant challenge due to microbial standards, leading many premix and ingredient suppliers to avoid the raw diet trend entirely. With limited supplier options, sometimes pet food manufacturers will turn to human nutrition-focused suppliers that possess the manufacturing equipment but not necessarily the companion animal nutrition expertise.

Trouw Nutrition, on the other hand, prides itself on its pet nutritionfocused expertise and being a true partner to its customers – doing everything in its power to help them achieve their goals. To help customers succeed in the raw diet market, Trouw Nutrition employs a positive release program for harmful pathogens. If a “kill step” is not used, Trouw Nutrition will test for dangerous microbes and will not release the product if a positive result is received.

For a positive release program, the manufacturer will take a sample of the finished blend. Some suppliers only take a 25 g sample because the smaller the sample, the greater the likelihood that the test will be negative and product won’t have to be destroyed, as required by law for contaminated food. Trouw Nutrition, on the other hand, takes a 375 g sample to increase accuracy in effort to discover any pathogens before the product leaves the facility.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires food manufacturers to validate that their preventive measures adequately control the hazard – in this case, pathogens. Trouw Nutrition employs an industry-leading quality assurance program and operations executed by cross-trained skilled production workers, giving raw diet customers the confidence they need in a Specialty Blends supplier.

Post-Extrusion Blends

Pet food manufacturers may seek to add sensitive functional ingredients, such as ingredients to boost oral health, flavoring agents, probiotics (living bacteria that may provide health benefits to the host) or other nutritional additives that would not survive the extrusion process.

The high heat, pressure, moisture and shear force applied during extrusion can degrade certain nutrients or modify the form of the nutrient, rendering it incapable of absorption by the pet. To overcome this processing hurdle, pet food manufacturers can coat kibble with palatants and other functional ingredients after heat processing.

Ingredients applied post-extrusion do not go through a “kill step,” making them a high-risk contributor to microbial contamination. To protect post-extrusion blends from these contaminants, many premix manufacturers will go above and beyond traditional system flushes and will halt production for a more thorough cleaning. In an effort to minimize downtime for cleaning, production of post-extrusion blends is meticulously scheduled.

Thanks to the separate bulk containers used for mixing in the new Blending Innovation Center, Trouw Nutrition can scrupulously clean its system with a more efficient wet wash procedure that allows manufacturing of post-extrusion blends throughout the production schedule.

“The Blending Innovation Center’s advanced blending system enables us to clean the system more efficiently, enabling Trouw Nutrition to respond to orders for Post-Extrusion Blends more quickly,” said Tom Best, Director of Quality and Food Safety. “With this improved process, we are more flexible with our production schedule, require less lead time and can provide better service by addressing customer needs more swiftly and efficiently.”

Center: If prioritizing not destroying product in effort to save money, some pet food premix suppliers may test a smaller sample to decrease the likelihood of discovering a pathogen. However, a larger sample increases the accuracy of the test.

The Specialty Blend capabilities Trouw Nutrition offers to the raw diet market is unlike anything else pet food manufacturers are seeing in our industry.
Ryan Hicks Director of Sales
Trouw Nutrition experts collaborate with our customers to develop custom premixes and blends that differentiate their brands from the competition.

Microbial-Sensitive Blending

Challenges with harmful pathogens plague certain other pet food ingredients as well, such as rice hulls and psyllium seed husks, which serve as common premix carriers intended to physically stabilize fine particle vitamins. By nature, keeping rice hulls and psyllium seed husks clean is quite difficult, making them particularly susceptible to harmful bacteria. Termed Microbial-Sensitive Blending, the process warrants especially stringent sanitation methods and protocol in accordance with regulatory mandates.

Accordingly, Trouw Nutrition employs a rigorous contaminant testing program designed to protect the health and well-being of our beloved pets and pet food manufacturers’ brands. The frequency of testing is partially determined by the risk factor of the ingredient. For ingredients at a lower risk of carrying harmful pathogens, such as paprika and blueberries, for example, Trouw Nutrition will conduct contaminant testing on a more infrequent basis. For high-risk ingredients, such as rice flour and rice hulls, Trouw Nutrition tests every delivery and if possible, will even test the ingredients while they remain on the delivery truck in effort to prevent contaminated ingredients from ever entering its facilities.

Trouw Nutrition’s new Blending Innovation Center was designed with Microbial-Sensitive Blending in mind. From the start of the blending process to the finished product, Trouw Nutrition continually monitors and makes operational improvements to reduce the risk of pathogen contamination.

The frequency of testing is partially determined by how susceptible the specific ingredient is to contaminants.

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Testing Frequency

Pathogen Risk Level Example Ingredients

We built an entirely separate facility solely dedicated to lowering the risk of Microbial-Sensitive Blending. The state-of-the-art Blending Innovation Center will focus on this crucial niche of the pet food industry. With our dedicated team of professionals, extensive training, and our Ingredient Intelligence, we are the true experts in Microbial-Sensitive Blending.

Infrequently Annual Biannual Quarterly Every Delivery paprika, blueberries quinoa, millet tomato, pomegranate soy protein concentrate, wheat bran rice flour, rice hulls

Cross-Contamination Risk

Some ingredients bare a higher risk of cross-contamination between production runs. For example, ingredients with strong odors, such as oregano or garlic, may leave a lingering aroma in the production equipment, if not cleaned properly between runs. Or ingredients with particularly deep colors, such as yellow marigold extract or red iron oxide, may stain the production equipment and/or turn the next production run that color. Or blends for low-allergen pet foods may come in contact with animal or plant proteins from an earlier production run. Or manufacturers planning to export their pet food overseas may require a non-GMO blend to be accepted for import, which could become cross-contaminated from ingredients used in an earlier production run. For these reasons, many premix and ingredient suppliers refrain from providing these difficult ingredient options.

With the unique design of the bulk containers in the Blending Innovation Center, Trouw Nutrition can use high-pressure water and wet sanitation methods to effectively and efficiently clean the mixing containers between production runs, enabling the facility to handle these difficult ingredients prone to cross-contamination.

The Blending Innovation Center’s production system is a true batch process that isolates each production batch to a single bin. By contrast, typical production equipment uses a semi-continuous process, which although safe and effective in meeting ingredient requirements, can require additional precautions against cross-contamination compared to a true batch system.

“It’s not every day that you can be part of a team that comes up with an innovative new technology that changes the game,” said Andy Fischer, Director of Operations for Trouw Nutrition’s U.S. Companion Animal Division. “Our team has worked for over a year to investigate new ideas, complete a comprehensive design review and have

every member of our group provide input on how we will operate. The design will enable us to meet unique customer needs and be a supplier of choice. Combine the innovation with our high standard of quality and the dedication of our great team and we will continue our long history as a mainstay for our community and families.”

Be Different

With more than 300 pet food manufacturers in the U.S., alluring one’s brand to pet parents on the already-crowded product shelves has become increasingly difficult. Pet food manufacturers can differentiate their brand with unique functional ingredients, palatants, raw diets and novel ingredients. Although working with these particular components can be challenging, they can provide pets with added health benefits that inspire pet parents to purchase that brand.

An experienced pet food premix and ingredient supplier can review product formulations to ensure maximum nutritional performance, as well as devise new solutions to achieve unique product claims. Specialty Blends are a key tool for brand differentiation and optimal nutrition success.


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There’s no single formula to satisfy every pet owner’s needs. Choose Trouw Nutrition for all your specialty blends: MICRO-BATCH SIZES RAW DIET PREMIXES POST-EXTRUSION BLENDS MICROBIAL-SENSITIVE BLENDING 800.365.1357 Call our experts today to bring your pet food nutrition goals to life.