When I meet people unfamiliar with the pet food palatant business, they often ask, “What’s a palatant?” closely followed by, “Why do you need palatants?” When I field these questions, I explain palatants enhance the taste of dog and cat foods, treats and supplements (what) and help ensure pets receive the vital nutrients they need from products that are good for them—but might not meet their idea of “tasty” (why).
If the concept is still hazy, I say something like, “Which do you prefer to eat: raw spinach or spinach salad with bacon dressing?” That usually causes a light bulb moment—and more questions.
Though these answers are true, they only scratch the surface of the pet food palatant story. The first pet food palatants were proteins enzymatically broken down (earning them the name “digests”) and applied to dry foods to provide the sensory impact of meat. Today, palatants are as varied as the pet food brands that rely on their use. They may be dry, liquid or a combination…applied topically or mixed into the kibble or can…and formulated for dogs, cats or both.
Modern-day palatants are both meat- and vegetable-based and designed to meet wide-ranging needs: grain free, limited ingredients, non-GMO, natural, low fat and more. Palatant components include not only proteins—derived from animal sources like poultry, pork, fish and vegetable sources like corn, soy, potato and specialty grains—but also yeasts, phosphates, antioxidants, antimicrobials, processing agents and other ingredients.
At AFB International, our job is to find just the right combination of palatant ingredients processed in the most effective manner to work in tandem with our customers’ pet food formulations. We supply the palatant in the desired form to the pet food manufacturer and the manufacturer applies the palatant using a method appropriate to the form.
And that’s still only part of the story. Not only have palatants become more sophisticated, the science of discerning pets’ tastes and preferences has rapidly grown, too, becoming an integral part of palatant development.