Many human nutritional and dietary ingredients have been studied and shown to be effective not only for human consumption, but suitable for our companion animals as well. Brands that were traditionally human-focused are beginning to enter the pet food and nutrition space, focusing primarily on dogs and cats, as well as more exotic mammalian pets such as pigs, ferrets, mice, horses and guinea pigs. These brands understand the growing value amongst their consumers for efficacious, clean products for their companion animals just like the ones they buy for themselves. The reasons behind the human-pet ingredient crossovers are twofold – (a) mammals have many shared areas of anatomy and physiology, as seen in similar fundamental cell processes, signaling events, and other bodily/system functions, and (b) many of our best dietary ingredients have been developed through testing and evaluation in small mammals. This makes us feel confident that supplements which are effective for human health and wellness will also be effective for our pet’s health and wellness.
When considering moving into the pet space, or making decisions about improving pet ingredients, it is necessary to see the viability of your investment. Data from 2021 shows that pet industry sales have increased 14% to nearly $125 billion, and that specifically the pet food and treat segments have increased 15% to about $51 billion. Packaged Facts found that 30% to 34% of Millennials and Gen Z pet owners like the idea of human companies crossing over into pet. This points to new opportunities for human dietary supplement brands looking to get into pet health or expand their pet health offerings.
There are two important considerations to note when developing ingredients for pets – toxicity and dosage. Firstly, there are various foods and food supplements that are not suitable for animal consumption. We all know that dogs should not eat chocolate or grapes, as the differences in their metabolism make these toxic to them. Certain supplements can also be harmful to pets- for example, alpha-lipoic acid, xylitol, vitamin D3, iron, and caffeine. Secondly, ingredient developers must recognize that the dosage will be different for animals than it is for humans. Pet dosage needs to be based on the different metabolisms and weights of various animals. Whether you are looking to begin developing pet supplements, or you are an existing brand in the pet industry looking to upgrade your current formulations, here are three ingredients to keep your eye on.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea leaves that is best known for inducing relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety, and is backed by years of human and animal studies. L-theanine works quickly (within an hour) and is experiential – it has a “feel” effect. As we know, pets can have severe anxiety concerns due to a range of factors: loud or unfamiliar noises, thunderstorms, travel, meeting new people or other animals, and separation anxiety, particularly visible in pets born during COVID-19. Suntheanine® is a specific form of L-theanine, known for its extensive library of clinical and scientific studies, is FDA notified GRAS, and is the only L-theanine made using a process that mimics the production of L-theanine in green tea. Suntheanine® L-theanine has been studied for relaxation, stress relief, and anxiety reduction, and is patented for suppressing pet behavioral problems.
Butyrate is a key short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that is both a source of energy for colonocytes in the gut and is a critical signaling molecule. Butyrate is not only responsible for gut health, but also for the function of the gut-brain axis, gut-skin axis, cardiovascular and metabolic cellular support, and a host of other gut-organ and gut-system interactions. Most mammalian cells have receptors for butyrate, indicating its importance in both human and animal physiology. Butyrate is a by-product, or metabolite, of bacterial fermentation in the gut. Direct butyrate generation is now possible due to innovation in the prebiotic space. A unique tributyrin complex (ButyraGen™) does not rely on traditional fermentation in the gut to produce butyrate; this allows it to deliver consistent, beneficial results to pets regardless of the state of their microbiome.
Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Fiber
Partially hydrolyzed guar fiber is a unique, soluble prebiotic fiber, with multiple studies showing its importance for gut health, maintaining regularity and stool consistency, and managing gut disorders. Pets need fiber for digestive support in the same way humans do. Digestive health remains a top concern for many pet owners, especially for those aware that in many pet foods, fiber is sorely lacking. Stool regulation and normalization is possible through positive osmolality effects than can be achieved with partially hydrolyzed guar fiber (Sunfiber®). This is an ideal prebiotic fiber for gut health in both humans and animals as it does not produce bloating nor gas and does not lead to stomach distress, as commonly seen with other prebiotics.
Many dietary ingredients not only provide health and wellness support for us humans, but are suitable for our companion animals as well. Our pet’s health is as important as the health of our spouses, children, and other members of our human family. The area of pet health presents a great opportunity for brands to expand their current product range, especially for those that have built trust and loyalty with their customers. Whether you are looking to venture into the pet health category, or are an existing pet company hoping to improve formulation options, L-theanine (Suntheanine®), Tributyrin Complex for direct butyrate generation (ButyraGen™) and partially hydrolyzed guar fiber (Sunfiber®) are a few examples of high quality ingredients that can do double-duty in both human and pet formulations.
NutriScience Innovations develops and markets innovative ingredients for the dietary supplement and functional food markets. For more information on Suntheanine®, ButyraGen®, and Sunfiber®, and for more information on other pet-friendly dietary ingredients, please contact [email protected].