By NZFIN’s Hawke’s Bay business development manager, Dr Nicky Solomon




Innovation in the food industry can be driven by many things and in the case of the explosion in the number of companies producing pet foods or treats – one global driver has been Covid-19. The increase in cat and dog ownership for companionship has risen exponentially.

Alongside this is the ‘humanising’ of our pets, with pet owners wanting to provide optimum nutrition to their animals. As we become more aware of the importance of nutrition to our own health, we are wanting that same level of food quality for our furry friends. And across the globe – people are paying premium for this.

The NZ Food Innovation Network is helping enable this category with all five of our facilities working with companies (from start-ups through to multi-nationals) developing products for animals.

Pets are increasingly treated as family members; consumers are shopping for pet food which is more like human food in terms of ingredients, format, and claims. Pet-parents want their pet to have a diet which reflects theirs and their beliefs. Data out of Mars has said it only takes one and a half to two years for human food trends to appear in the pet food and treat market. According to the company, which tracks these trends, it previously took five to seven years.

Across the NZFIN network development is happening in many types of treats of pet foods, among them raw dried pet treats and pet milks which are lactose-free for digestibility and usually in a UHT format. FoodPilot at Massey University has the added value of having the Animal Nutrition Department on its doorstep. This enables innovators to make use of a comprehensive suite of resources, science, and knowledge, and the onsite cat and dog colony enables palatability testing and the ability to do specific nutrition trials.

Nationally, our facilities provide many opportunities including the appropriate suite of equipment for trials and commercial production and customers can make use of the RMP for exporting samples. Internationally the category is growing, fast! But it’s a complex landscape and part of what we can do is help connect you with the right people and organisations to navigate this booming pet food innovation space.


Dr Nicky Solomon counts herself as one lucky person to be working with innovators across New Zealand. With a PhD in Food Science and a background in food product development and innovation strategy, Nicky acts as a NZFIN catalyst – connecting, directing, and advising innovators, helping them access the best people and organisations to take their products from concept to commercialisation.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Hot Source, NZ Food Technology, or the parent company, Hayley Media.