Unlocking the full potential of botanicals in the pet market: opportunities and implications.
A blossoming market
If you think botanicals in the pet supply market are old news, think again. There may already some 100,000 botanical compounds being used in human and animal products, but research into new compounds and additional uses for botanicals continues apace, in line with the growing consumer interest in plant-based products in general. The full potential of botanicals in the pet market, whether for feed, nutritional, hygiene or veterinary applications, has yet to be reached.
Areas of application in the field of botanicals relevant to the pet market in the future might include meat replacement and alternative protein sources, specific veterinary applications, and products that meet the demands of the global ‘pet parenting’ humanisation trend, like more sophisticated wellness products.
One example is products that contain naturally occurring hemp extracts that improve pet digestion and promote calmness, prevent itching and enhance joint mobility. There is certainly a great deal more potential for further integration of botanical ingredients into pet products of all types.
Complex regulatory landscape
Incorporating botanicals into products requires specific manufacturing methods and compliance with many regulations, depending upon the ingredient, its origin and the market application.
There can be significant risks involved in the use of some botanicals and the method used to extract these compounds, and new processes for extraction and product manufacture have been developed as a result. For example, some botanical compounds used as fragrances used to be routinely extracted using solvents such as hexane, a potentially harmful organic solvent. Some manufacturers have switched to using safer CO2 supercritical extraction methods, in which very high pressure and low temperature are used to isolate key components.
Pet product manufacturers using botanical ingredients should be aware of the full implications of purchase, manufacturing and marketing regulations that apply to the product that they are developing. This may involve the many rules and regulations set by a wide range of regional and global organisations: from food safety or medical regulations to important conservation laws, as well as labelling and packaging implications.
As research focused on botanical compounds feeds the knowledge base and informs subsequent regulations, staying on top of emerging developments is a key challenge for manufacturers using botanicals. The botanical market is a complex and dynamic one. Many of the changes occurring within it may be positive for manufacturers, however, such as the opportunities to use health claims in the marketing of some botanical ingredients, as provided by the currently evolving European Union and US legislation on functional food ingredients.
One issue in the use of botanical compounds commercially is ensuring sustainable harvesting from natural sources. Synthetic methods of production have not always proved efficient, and the botanical ingredient supply industry is trying to find new ways to produce these ingredients that are acceptable and affordable for environmentally-conscious consumers. There has recently been some promising research in production of rare plant compounds using yeast (1).
Another issue is packaging. The use of certain botanical compounds in pet products might require manufacturers to rethink packaging, particularly if there are interactions between the active ingredients in the product and more traditional packaging materials.
As academic focus on plant sciences grows globally, there are an increasing number of start-ups focused on developing new botanical compounds for human and agricultural applications.
Large multinational corporates are also incorporating botanicals within their product portfolios. Pet market manufacturers interested in the use of these promising compounds now have a wide range of information available through specialist organisations, academic resources, publications and conferences.
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