19 October 2020 - Interest in pet nutrition has soared over the past decade, as more and more owners view their cats and dogs as integral members of their family. The trend has led to the both the premiumisation and humanisation of pet food, with many manufacturers working to create food, treats and supplements to meet owners’ nutritional demands for their furry friends.
With a background in human nutrition, Lallemand Animal Nutrition has been working to take advantage of the trend by transferring its skills from people to the pet market. Here, pet development manager Dr. Francesca Susca, and Bart Dunsford, business development manager for North America, explain how the business’ innovations in yeast and antioxidant products mean it is the ideal partner for businesses and consumers focused on improving pet nutrition.
[Feedinfo] What prompted Lallemand Animal Nutrition to move into the pet food market, and how has its experience in human nutrition helped with the transition?
[Bart Dunsford] As a leader in the development of yeast and bacteria-based nutritional products for both humans and animals, Lallemand Animal Nutrition has a portfolio of microbial solutions which are perfectly suited to address the day-to-day challenges facing cats and dogs.
Today, 80% of new product launched globally bears health claims, while more than 20% are associated with digestive health. This figure isn’t surprising considering gastrointestinal disorders are one of the most common reasons pets are taken to the vet. Other concerns for pet owners include obesity, immune defence, healthy ageing and stress.
Lallemand’s expertise in developing specifically selected microbials to naturally maintain pet wellbeing is aligned to consumer expectations. With a range of solutions including yeast and yeast derivatives, antioxidants, probiotics and para-probiotics, we offer natural solutions to support pet digestive care, enhance their natural defences, and favour their antioxidant status optimisation.
[Feedinfo] How important are gut microbiota in dog and cat health?
Dr. Francesca Susca
[Francesca Susca] Through its three main functions — metabolic, protective and structural — the gut microbiota are vital to the physical and mental health of its host. The complex interaction between the microbiota, the host immune system and genetics are what influences the balance between health and disease, with age, environment, antibiotics and diet being some of the factors recognised to affect the gut community. Understanding the composition, diversity and functional capacity of the intestinal microbiota is essential for discovering how it can be used to improve pet wellbeing. It is widely recognised in humans and rodents, but also in pets, that supplementation with functional ingredients can be an effective way to shape the gut microbiota, and consequently improve pets’ overall health and wellbeing.
[Feedinfo] Which nutritional solutions can be used to improve pets’ digestive health and support immune systems?
[Bart Dunsford] Lallemand Animal Nutrition offers microbial solutions which are recognised to be beneficial for digestive care and for immune support. They comprise bacteria, in their live (probiotic) and inactivated form (para-probiotic), as well as yeast and yeast derivatives. With the combined resources from Lallemand human and animal nutrition teams, we can craft ideal solutions for customer-specific applications and needs. These include food-based, supplements, or treats.
[Feedinfo] What benefits do yeast and yeast derivatives offer to pet nutrition?
[Francesca Susca] Yeast are natural microorganisms with high biological activities that have great potential in many food and health applications. In pet nutrition, yeast can be used as the whole yeast cell or fractions of it; each type of product comes with its own benefits.
Whole cell yeast can be active, as a live probiotic. A good example used in both in human and animal nutrition is Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii. There are hundreds of research publications on using boulardii in humans, as well as scientific evidence on its beneficial effects in dogs. Whole inactive yeast is also a good flavour enhancer thanks to its contribution to the umami flavour characteristic. It can also be used to increase the nutritional value of the food as yeast are naturally high in B-complex vitamins and high-quality protein.
When producing yeast, it’s possible to enrich yeast growth medium by adding vitamins, minerals or trace elements in larger amounts than what is required for the optimal yeast growth. In this case, they will be absorbed and stored in the yeast cell compartments. A well-known example is selenium-enriched yeast; selenium is an essential micronutrient that is required by dogs and cats to sustain the basic functions of life, such as antioxidant, immune and thyroid functions.
Inactive yeast can be lysed and separated into different yeast fractions, the main categories being yeast cell wall and the yeast extracts. Yeast cell wall is the most widely-used yeast derivative category, essentially for their content in mannan oligosaccharides (MOS) and B-glucans. Yeast extract is the cytoplasmic components of the yeast cells after separation from the yeast cell wall. It is used as flavour enhancer due to its content of glutamic acid and other components, and it also has great nutritional value. For example, they are rich in nucleotides, the building blocks of nucleic acids, which are essential for recovery and maintenance of vitality and well-being of dogs and cats.
[Feedinfo] There are hundreds of species of yeast, how do you select the optimal one for the right application?
[Francesca Susca] There are hundreds of species, but Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the main one used in nutrition. At Lallemand Animal Nutrition we use techniques, such as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), to determine optimal potential. AFM is a very powerful tool that allows us to look closely at the yeast cell, enabling us to classify and characterise different yeast strains by understanding the biophysical and biochemical composition of the cell wall. We applied this technique for specific yeast strain selection.
With this knowledge, and with specific and carefully-controlled production processes, we were able to select and formulate specific strains with different, complementary properties. This lead to the creation of our innovative yeast product, YANG; the first formulated product on the yeast derivatives market. We have been able to show in vivo and in vitro the beneficial effects that innovative yeast product exert on pets’ health and well-being. Not all yeasts are equal, and in this context YANG’s ability to reinforce animals’ natural defences and support digestive care represents a disruptive innovation in pet nutrition.
[Feedinfo] How can your products be applied in the pet market?
[Francesca Susca] Lallemand Animal Nutrition offers solutions for all type of applications, from dry to wet pet food but also snacks and treats as well as supplements. The key functional benefits that we offer include gastrointestinal health, immune support, and cellular antioxidants in a wide range of bacterial and yeast based solutions. As we gain more insights into the importance of the gut microbiome and the influence it has upon so many bodily functions, we help customers develop specific blends to address these roles.
The gut-brain axis is an area of great interest and Lallemand has been a pioneer in how our probiotics can positively affect stress and anxiety in humans. In a similar manner, our inactive yeast products play a major role in overall health and well-being. We are able to suggest and guide our customers to the most appropriate solution according to their desired benefits and function, while also bearing in mind their industrial process. We do have thermosensitive products such as probiotics and innovative primary antioxidants, but we also have solutions that can undergo very harsh conditions, such as yeast extracts and para-probiotics, without losing their properties.
We understand how important it is for pet food manufacturers to have stable solutions which are easy to apply while still maintaining the beneficial properties for which have been included in the recipe. A great example are the para-probiotics, a bacterial culture which has undergone a strain-specific process to obtain inactivated cells with preservation of certain host health benefits. Thanks to that, we offer our customers the possibility to include shelf-stable strains of bacteria in their recipes, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus HA-122, Lactobacillus casei HA, which are not able to replicate but exert immuno-modulatory properties.
[Feedinfo] How do you see the pet nutrition market developing in future?
[Bart Dunsford] In the last decade the global pet food market has seen a constant growth which we expect will last for the coming years. The average dog and cat lifespan has considerably increased, and pet owners want their pets to live longer and healthier lives. Additionally, consumers will be increasingly sensitive about the origin, ingredients and environmental impact of the products they select. In a market where there are lots of products to choose from, innovation and differentiation are the keys for success.
Published in association with Lallemand Animal Nutrition