Connecting vitamin premix supply to consumer assurance

What do vitamins have to do with consumer assurance?

Food quality is high on the consumers agenda, not only for themselves but also for their furry children due to highly publicized pet food fraud scandals, pet food recalls related to vitamins, an overall increase in nutritional health awareness, and pet humanization. This loss of consumer trust in the pet food industry has led to owners questioning what goes into their pet’s food. As an example, a 2017 MetrixLab consumer study commissioned by DSM indicated that those pet parents responsible for buying the pet food for the home were concerned about the traceability and origin of ingredients used to make their pets food.

When it comes to assessing pet food quality, there are many aspects a consumer may use to assess it, but what is clear, is the expectation that the food is safe when consumed and it is what it claims to be on the label.

As an addition consideration, pet parents now seek foods that reflect current human food, nutrition, and health trends. This has increased the complexity of pet food recipes, an example of which is shown in the table below. 

For a pet food company, managing complex ingredient supply chains to source these new ingredients are resource intensive and often difficult to navigate.  In addition to dealing with many new ingredients and their suppliers, it is also important to notice that some ingredients added to pet food are a premix of many other ingredients, among them is a vitamin premix. If not enough of a vitamin is present in the food, such as thiamine (or Vitamin B1), deficiency will occur, or, if added in excess, vitamins such as A and D can be toxic.  Consequently, under and overdosing select vitamins can result in pet health issues, with some leading to death, harming both the animal and the brand responsible.

The following illustrates the importance of managing vitamin premix quality since a single unit of premix impacts a much larger amount of food, hence a large number of furry children who eat that food.

Understanding vitamin premix quality and its application in the food formulation is imperative to mitigating safety risks.  Fully understanding the complexity associated with vitamins, pet food manufacturers will be readily able to consistently apply vitamins to provide the nutritional quality assured of their pet food, deliver their brand’s promise, plus protect its equity by properly formulating with safe and traceable ingredients.

Where does safety start with a vitamin premix?

For commercially produced pet nutrition products, the vitamins used within them must be safely produced and formulated into specialized forms.  These forms must be selected and applied consistently throughout the supply and production chain, from storage and handling to their proper inclusion in a premix, considering the pet food type, production process, and finished food product storage. It is therefore important to first understand the importance of vitamin forms, premix formulation considerations, and their application.

First, by understanding vitamins as individual ingredients

Basic vitamin compounds are produced by chemical synthesis, fermentation, extraction (often from a natural source) or by a combination of technologies. During their production there is a possible quality risk based on exposure to chemical solvents, unreacted intermediates and the introduction of other contaminants. The active vitamin producer, such as DSM, will therefore control this risk using proper chemistry, enforcing strict incoming raw material sourcing programs with their suppliers and operate to robust outgoing finished product quality control protocols. 

In the basic form, various environmental factors affect the stability of vitamin compounds to varying degrees. Taking their environmental sensitivities into account to improve their intrinsic stability, they undergo a process of chemical modification. This includes esterification, phosphorylation or crystallization of the organic salt to create a more stable vitamin compound.

These vitamin compounds are finally formulated into specific vitamin forms to make them suitable for use in a variety of pet food, treat, drink, and supplement products.  The formulation process ensures basic vitamin stability “as-is” during storage, when used during processing and storage of the final product, whilst remaining bioavailable to the animal. In addition, vitamin forms are optimized to ensure regulatory compliance, good handling properties and optimal mixability in premixes and dispersion in the food.

Many forms of vitamins are produced ensuring many pet nutrition products can be supplemented with vitamins. This table shows the vitamin form requirements dependent on the application.

Many form technologies can be used to stabilize the vitamin compound by controlling oxidation, minimizing contact with hostile compounds, or shielding them from high heat processing. Cross-linked beadlet technology is one technology used to create a form designed to address the rigors of the high temperature and pressure extrusion process, a process used to produce dry pet foods (the majority of pet foods sold worldwide). 

Below is an example of a cross-linked beadlet form of Vitamin A, a vitamin susceptible to significant losses during the production and storage of dry pet food.

In fact, the cross-linked vitamin A form combines chemical stabilization of the retinol compound using acetylation to form retinol acetate, and the cross-linking technology involves forming a food ingredient based hard shelled beadlet around a group of tiny retinol acetate droplets combined with a protective antioxidant. The ingenuity of this form is to not only physically and chemically protect the vitamin but also aide in the distribution of the nutrient throughout the premix and throughout the finished product, whilst insuring the nutrient is bioavailable upon consumption.  The following form particle characteristics are essential to ensure maximum quality:

  • Nutrient potency
  • Size uniformity
  • Geometry
  • Friction between particles
  • Electrostatic charge
  • Hydroscopicity (ability to attract water)
  • Dustiness (also impacts the health of people in production)

For all the reasons outlined, meeting the nutritional needs of pets with native vitamins from natural ingredients presents a challenge that cannot be overcome by most pet product applications especially 100% nutritionally complete pet foods.

Sourcing your vitamins from an experienced vitamin producer helps maintain the necessary attributes needed to ultimately produce a best quality vitamin premix for your pet foods.

Second, by understanding premix quality

Many factors need to be considered when designing a vitamin premix specification and selecting vitamin forms to deliver the desired nutrient levels in the pet food at the point of consumption.

There are highly experienced specialists at DSM that will design a premix formulation that not only makes sense for the specific premix production facility where the blend will be made, but also address application related specifics. These include:

  • Species to be fed
  • Label or functionality claims that must be fulfilled, including addressing restrictions, such as grain-free, since grain ingredients are often used in premix as a carrier, diluent, and/or flow agent
  • Characteristics of the commercially produced pet product requiring fortification
  • Expected vitamin loss during production and storage, with appropriate vitamin forms selected and nutrient activity overages calculated accordingly

The importance of quality programs and culture

Pet food manufacturers can help manage their vitamin supply quality by selecting vitamin producers and blenders that are reputable, can demonstrate that they have an employee culture living quality and safety consciously, and also have brand equity to protect.  Food safety is key. A quality and safety program designed around food safety standards, integrating all business processes, managed by a team of qualified quality and safety managers is essential.  

An important part of quality control is change management. Change management systems must be in place and be robust. A supplier’s mindful knowledge of the risks to their customers and the sustainability of both businesses is essential. Leading ingredient suppliers will be perpetually working to improving their food safety program. This is part of DSM’s business strategy, we call this “closing the loop”. Through this system, root cause analysis on deviations can be carried out and, management of change tools implemented which covers not only the practical issues, but most importantly how best to manage the people side of change.

Integrated Supply Chain and Traceability are key

Pet retail products range from concentrated dietary supplements to pet foods designed to deliver 100% of the pet’s daily nutritional needs. Due to this complexity, and the safety concerns associated with these types of retail products, it makes sense that ingredient traceability is vital. A trusted supply chain is therefore needed. A food safety program in line with food safety standards is the basis for this, starting with strict ingredient vendor qualification and management processes. Robust and integrated documentation, goods receipt, and warehouse management systems are required, which should be open to interrogation. 

The process of manufacturing bioactive micro-nutrients, and blends of micro ingredients, is complex from a quality assurance perspective. Through involvement in all three steps of the nutritional ingredient chain: the production of pure active ingredients, their incorporation into sophisticated forms, and the provision of tailored premixes, integrated premix and micro-ingredient producers, such as DSM offer unrivalled traceability to the pet food industry. Traceability, supported by rapid global track & trace systems, like those at DSM, provides an additional assurance of safety.

Ultimately, maximizing consumer assurance requires working with suppliers dedicated to the pet food industry

The pet food industry sits between the feed and food industries.  Although a company may have either a strong feed industry background or food industry background, this knowledge and expertise would not be sufficient for addressing the unique needs of those manufacturing pet nutritional products.  Quality assurance, thus consumer assurance, is maximized when working with suppliers dedicated to serving the unique requirements of the pet food industry.

DSM has not only been manufacturing vitamins for over 100 years, we have been supplying the pet food industry for an unprecedented 50+ years.  Our team of pet industry experts also seek to establish partnerships with their clients, to not only be a high-quality and reliable supplier but engaged with supporting brand development.  Together we strive to strengthen our business by strengthening yours, all while meeting the needs of our true customers – pet parents and their furry children!

Published on

24 March 2019


  • Pets
  • Vitamins


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