Introducing Pet Food Processing

by Josh Sosland
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Josh Sosland
By complete serendipity, the acquisition by General Mills, Inc. of Blue Buffalo Pet Products, Inc., a maker of premium pet food, was announced only days before Sosland Publishing Company. sent its inaugural edition of Pet Food Processing to the printer. To the degree either of these developments at two companies with deep roots tied to flour milling and food processing prompted head scratching, they should not.

While General Mills in its storied history drifted far afield from its milling origins with the acquisitions of Parker Brothers, Eddie Bauer, Red Lobster and other businesses in the second half of the 20th century, the company always has had a link to the pet food industry. As the largest flour milling company in the world until the mid-1960s, General Mills was a major source of ingredients for pet food manufacturers. Byproducts of the milling industry, including millfeed, clears and red dog, for decades were core pet food and dog treat inputs. This linkage between milling and pet food has diminished over time. Millfeed is not as popular an ingredient in dog food any longer, and mills have curtailed production of clears and red dog as they have invested in ways to maximize flour extraction. Still, the pet food sector is anything but foreign to a company long known for flour, bakery mixes, ready-to-eat cereal, yogurt and soup.

Similarly, Sosland Publishing’s long history as the chronicler of millfeed market developments means that pet food always has been on this business’s radar. The connections go deeper. The nation’s largest baking company most of the late 20th century, Continental Baking Co., for many years was owned by Ralston Purina Co., long a leading pet food manufacturer. The three largest pet food companies in the United States today all are owned by major food processing companies — Mars Inc., Nestle S.A. and The J.M. Smucker Co.

Drawing these consumer-packaged foods giants into the pet food market is a dynamism that in recent years honestly has eclipsed the food sector. While scanner data has estimated overall food sales to be flat nearly for a decade, the $30 billion U.S. pet food market consistently has been growing at rates of 3 to 4 per cent per year. In purchasing for $8 billion a pet food business established in 2002 and paying a heady multiple of 25 times Blue Buffalo’s adjusted 2017 EBITDA, General Mills clearly believes this dynamism will extend into the future.

Similar excitement underpins this company’s launch of Pet Food Processing at the start of our 97th year, with four issues planned for 2018. The ferment driving change in the pet food sector is well captured in the range of topics included in the first issue of Pet Food Processing. In addition to the challenges manufacturers face complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act and in producing at peak efficiency, a feature story addresses the balance companies must achieve to meet sometimes competing consumer demand for quality ingredients, nutrition, convenient packaging and palatability for the pet. The challenges of ensuring formulations deliver promised nutrition and appealing to pet owners with ever more creative flavors in foods, treats and nutritional supplements also are addressed in the issue.

In the challenging field of business-to-business publishing, the decision to launch Pet Food Processing was not made lightly. The title is the first new print magazine introduced by Sosland Publishing in more than a decade. A web site, petfoodprocessing.net, also will be launched shortly. Pet Food Processing offers this company an opportunity to better serve customers that supply ingredients and equipment to both the food and pet industries while also reaching out to companies specializing in the pet side alone. In beginning this exciting new chapter, Sosland Publishing pledges to the pet food sector the same unwavering commitment to thoughtful and accurate industry coverage that has been the hallmark of this business for 96 years.
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