Pet food Industry in India is a $500 million market, growing at a significant rate of over 18 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
According to the Future Market Insights (FMI) report, the global insect-based pet food market value is expected to reach $17.29 billion by 2031, indicating a healthy CAGR surge of 9.3 per cent for the same time period.
To sustain this growing pet food demand, there should be a sustainable supply of high-quality and nutritious ingredients. Insect proteins and fats, though unconventional and often questioned for their quality because of a pre-conceived notion of insects being pests, are genuinely one of the best ingredients to feed your canine and feline companions.
They are a rich source of bio-active peptides which can impart anti-microbial, anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, etc. properties to pet foods and offer superior protein digestibility in comparison to most other alternatives that exist in the market. In short, it is a lean source of animal-based protein suitable for omnivorous species like cats and dogs.
The FMI report also indicates that among pets, insect-based pet food consumption in the dog segment is expected to grow at 8.4 per cent CAGR.
Insect fats, depending on the source could be rich in anti-microbial properties including Omega 3 fatty acids, and can also be used as a palatability agent in pet foods. The single most important thing for a pet parent is the health and safety of their pets, which an insect-based pet food can offer.
Insects being cold-blooded, require far lesser space and energy to grow. Unlike other meat products like chicken, pork, lamb, or beef, Insects release significantly lesser greenhouse gases (GHGs), utilise organic by-products to grow, and are significantly faster in their growth.
For example, Black Soldier Fly larvae — a source of high-quality protein and other nutrients, including essential amino acids, etc., one of the prominent insects for food and feed, require approximately 200X lesser land and water to produce the same about of protein as soybeans. So, insects are one of the most sustainable and nature-friendly bio-resources too.
Insect-based pet foods might appear a new and icky concept, but it’s not. Most prominent pet food brands have started using it in their formulations.
There are also boutique brands in Europe, the US, Canada, South-East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as several other countries where companies are coming up with specialised insect-based pet foods, supplements, and treats that are priced at a premium in comparison to the conventional alternatives, due to the wide array of benefits it offers.
Not only this, the US, Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany, and France are the top countries exhibiting consistently higher demand. Moreover, more than 2 billion people globally consume insects as a part of their staple diets. So, it is a human-grade food material, and there are checks and quality parameters to prove it too.
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Having what it takes
Just like for any other manufacturing industry in India, we have frugal cost structures due to the low cost of labour, land, electricity, and raw material. Insect farming requires a tropical climate and organic biomass, which India richly offers.
Thus, we have what it takes to farm and process insects in India to valuable biomolecules and ingredients, for not just domestic consumption but for the world. Similarly, insect-based pet food production can be taken up in India not just for the $0.5 billion domestic markets, but for the $100 billion global markets.
It can be a mix of both B2B and B2C play, where volumes are offered to the foreign brands as a contract manufacturer, and value is extracted from the pet parents here. Another strategy could be to create Insect based pet foods made along with our indigenous herbs and ingredients so that there is a unique value proposition for the pet parents to buy the product.
Pet food formulators should have an optimistic attitude toward the use of new ingredients and try out new production processes.
Most of the pet food in India is imported, and there is also a belief among pet parents that imported brands are better in comparison to Indian ones. Ultimately, a mindset shift amongst the pet parents can only be through the supply of the highest quality products, and not cheaper average quality products.
(The author is the Co-Founder of Loopworm)