I attended the recent Enterprise Ireland workshop on Innovation and the Petfood Market in Eastpoint in Dublin. It was a fascinating day with many excellent presentations.
The market and market potential for the pet food sector in Ireland is €100 million + and has been, as some experts described it, "recession proof". Markets in other European countries are significantly higher, indicating the potential for the Irish market to grow further, and also the export potential for Irish companies.
The big driver for pet food is humanisation, or more simply, as Garett Dee (Leads Enterprise Ireland's Global Petfood and Animal Nutrition Sectoral Team) put it, 'look at human food trends now, in two years, that's what animals will be eating'. Its advice that holds true, particularly when you start to look more closely at the petfood market - food for healthcare issues such as obesity, healthy treats, functional foods containing omega 3 fatty acids and even 'hypoallergenic' foods.
Prof Dolores O'Riordan gave a great presentation on on-going work at UCD in collaboration with industry in this area. Predominantly the project revolves around encapsulation of enzymes and other molecules to ensure that they maintain maximum activity until they reach their target digestive area. The project is overseen by an Industry Steering group to ensure that commerical relevance in maintained (in much the same way that Shannon ABC is directed by an Industry Steering Committee).
The day wound up with a round table discussion about opportunities for the petfood sector, funding through FP7 was discussed with a suggestion to the companies to contact either a research provider or their national contact points for FP7 to help guide them through the process. Opportunites were highlighted by Susan Steele and John Fagan from BIM's Seafood Development Centre in the area of utilising fish waste in the petfood sector, and also from Ann Maria Mullen on the collaborative opportunities with Teagasc.
Given the direction of the petfood sector, paralleling human food, there are opportunities for petfood companies to also leverage on Shannon ABC's experience in the area of bioactive compounds, and the generation of value from waste.