Food processing

Leveraging Strong Co-Manufacturing Relationships | Pet food processing

This article originally appeared in the December 2021 issue of Pet food processing. Read it and other articles from this issue in our December digital edition.

Across the country, pet food and treat brands large and small are turning to contract manufacturers to turn their nutritional concepts into trusted products. Co-manufacturers can be a vital lifeline for businesses when internal costs are prohibitive, capacities or capacities are limited, or processing expertise is needed to ensure the best possible product is what appears on the shelves. some stores.

Leveraging these partnerships has been invaluable to Petcurean, Chilliwack, BC. In 2015, the premium pet food company partnered with Elmira Pet Products in Elmira, Ontario to establish a manufacturing facility where Elmira would produce its pet food formulas to to help the company meet growing global demand.

This co-manufacturing partnership is unique in that Petcurean has state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment inside the factory, which is managed by Elmira’s team of experienced operators. Petcurean’s nutrition and quality assurance teams are located near Waterloo, Ontario, allowing for close collaboration throughout the process.

GO! SOLUTIONS dog food is the result of its co-manufacturing partnership with Elmira. (Source: Petcurian)

“The proximity to Elmira allows our teams to work alongside their research and development teams and monitor our food production,” said Natalie Asaro, Nutrition Manager at Petcurean. “There is also an intangible benefit to working closely with their team, which really strengthens the symbiotic relationship we have developed, further enabling us to deliver the best premium pet food products to our customers. “

Petcurean’s in-house team of pet nutrition experts are responsible for formulating the company’s products, while its co-manufacturing partners are responsible for bringing those formulations to life. This cooperative effort allows formulators and operators to focus on what they do best.

Boulder, Colo.-based “I and love and you,” which offers dry and wet dog and cat food and functional meal garnishes, is also a proponent of co-manufacturing partnerships. Lindsey Rabaut, vice president of marketing, said it keeps the company nimble and nimble.

“Using a co-man network allows us to have unlimited capabilities,” she said. “If we see a consumer need and know what would solve it, we can find partners to help us make it happen.”

The company takes a similar approach — starting with a product concept and working with a co-manufacturer to bring that idea to market — to continually innovate its portfolio. As an example, “I and love and you” relied on the processing expertise of a co-manufacturer to develop one of its fastest growing dry dog ​​food lines, Baked & Saucy, which he first launched in early 2019.

Baked & Saucy is a coated kibble that can be rehydrated from Baked & Saucy is a coated kibble that can be rehydrated from “I and love and you” with the help of a co-making partner. (Source: “Me and love and you”)

“This was born out of the consumer perception that as humans we perceive our pets to be bored with their food,” Rabaut said. “Baked & Saucy allows pet owners to serve it dry one meal and wet the next.”

Working with the co-manufacturer’s R&D and processing teams on how to coat the kibble and what equipment is needed, the two partners “truly built the product as a team,” Rabaut explained.

Choose the right partner

Pet food brands are facing more scrutiny than ever in terms of product quality and safety. Creating a controlled and reliable network of co-manufacturing partners is therefore essential for continued success. This includes establishing guarantees and expectations from the start.

“When we partner with a co-manufacturer, we apply rigorous quality assurance processes that are backed by a comprehensive system of testing, controls and guarantees, which apply from the selection of ingredients to the process of manufacturing,” Asaro said.

These safeguards include health, quality and safety testing of each batch of product at every stage of the process and measures against Health Canada standards for foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli. , as well as other quality threats.

“By combining our expertise in pet nutrition with their expertise in manufacturing, production and food safety, we can create the safest, highest quality recipes for our pets,” said Natalie Asaro. , Petcurean.

The company’s co-manufacturers maintain certifications from organizations such as the European Union, United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), British Retail Consortium (BRC), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), all of which set a high bar for hygienic and safe manufacturing.

“We are 100% committed to protecting the health and well-being of our pets, and by extension, we expect the same from the suppliers and partners we work with,” Asaro said.

Sandra Perryman, Director of Food Safety and Quality, “I and love and you”, shared that apart from food safety and quality controls, her company considers several other factors, including the morale at work.

“Often you can sense when things are not right with employees because you’ll see inefficiencies in various processes or even disagreements between line staff,” she said. “I always make it a point to visit the break room to get a better idea of ​​the general culture of the establishment.”

When choosing a co-manufacturing partner, it’s also a good idea to ask how management has handled past issues and taken corrective action.

“If a facility says they’ve never had a positive test result on an environmental swab, that should tell you that their EMP program probably isn’t very robust,” Perryman said.

Once a partner is chosen, brands can benefit from regular facility tours to see first-hand the production of various products and get a general idea of ​​the inner workings of a facility. This way, brands can stay informed, build the relationship, and address any issues that arise head-on.

Partnering with a co-manufacturer may pose certain limitations, including ingredient availability and processing capabilities.

“For example, you may need to adjust your wish list of ingredients to work within the limits of what the co-maker already has available,” Rabaut explained. “You may also need to adjust the type of packaging to meet the capacity of the automated equipment in place.”

It is important to consider the equipment capabilities and capacity constraints of a co-manufacturer, whether equipment needs to be purchased to meet demand, whether training is required for operators to produce certain products of a brand’s portfolio, and all associated cost factors.

“Using a co-man network allows us to have unlimited capabilities,” Lindsey Rabaut said, “Me and Love and You”

Working with an open-minded partner can be beneficial in the long run, but Perryman noted that an overzealous attitude toward innovation can be a red flag in some cases. It is best if both companies understand their limitations and keep quality, safety and consumer first in mind.

“I have seen examples where a co-manufacturer tries to be many things for many different customers and in the end this only leads to food safety and quality errors,” a- she declared. “I appreciate contractors who are honest about their production and equipment capabilities and who don’t make promises that ultimately can’t be kept.”

Keep lines open

Just like personal relationships, selecting a synergistic partner can result in a lasting union.

“Communication is key to developing and maintaining a working partnership with your co-manufacturers,” Rabaut said. “Ideally, when we start working with a new contractor, we schedule weekly calls for at least the first 12 months to discuss all aspects of a new project.”

All things considered, clear expectations and clearer communication have resulted in many mutually beneficial relationships between pet food and treat brands and contract manufacturers across the country.

“Our co-manufacturing partnerships allow for true collaboration,” Asaro said. “Being able to log in regularly allows our teams to work very closely with each other to follow our food production and the development of new recipes.

“To get the most out of a co-manufacturing partnership, we believe you need to find partners you can trust who match your own vision and values,” she concluded. “Choosing partners with expertise in the field is also critical, and the ability to work closely together will result in a successful partnership.”

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