In the dark of night, while most people are sound asleep, the waters of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia become a powerhouse of activity. This is when the fishing boats of Piscine Energetics head out to harvest mysis shrimp, the main ingredient in PE Mysis pellet and flake foods. The operation uses a patented fishing method unique to the company that allows for collection of the shrimp in a sustainable manner, by pulling a net attached to a tube that collects the shrimp as they rise to the top of the lake to feed on phytoplankton. From the net the shrimp are funneled to a catch boat, where they’re dumped into bins and transported to the processing facility.
The benefits of Piscine Energetics’ operation reach far beyond harvesting a nutritional ingredient for fish food. The lake had been overtaken by mysis shrimp that were threatening the natural salmon population. The shrimp were introduced to the lake back in the 1960s in an attempt to provide food for the salmon and improve the native population, but things didn’t go as planned. Instead of the salmon eating the shrimp, the shrimp ended up eating the same phytoplankton needed by the salmon, disrupting the food chain of the lake. By harvesting the shrimp, Piscine Energetics is helping restore the natural balance of the lake.
The Piscine Energetics story is one that resonates with today’s aquarium hobbyists, who are increasingly concerned with environmental impact and sustainability issues. The same customers who are paying attention to how livestock are caught or bred are paying attention to the products they use to maintain their aquariums and care for their fish. Environmentally safe, sustainable production practices are playing an increased role in customers’ purchasing decisions.
In addition to sustainable harvesting methods and environmentally friendly products, today’s aquarium hobbyists are showing greater concern over what they are feeding their fish, and they’re looking for ingredients that will provide nutritional benefits.
“We’ve seen an increase in the need for variety over the past couple of years,” said Bree Modica, nutrition and regulatory specialist for Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc. “Pet owners want to be able to offer different ingredients and flavors to their fish, whether it’s novel ingredients such as peas and beets or aquatic ingredients such as spirulina and plankton.”
Flake and pellet foods made with these ingredients provide the nutritional benefits customers are looking for in a method of feeding that is easy and convenient. Piscine Energetics recently entered the flake and pellet category after years of producing frozen food in order to bring their mysis product to an even larger market.
“Mysis shrimp are full of beneficial omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and we wanted to offer our sustainable product in a convenient form for the hobbyists who are feeding flake and pellet foods,” said Nuri Fisher, president of Piscine Energetics.
Piscine Energetics isn’t alone in introducing recognizable ingredients to the flake and pellet category. Zoo Med’s spirulina and plankton flakes use a high heat flaking process to maintain the nutrients of their aquatic ingredients.
“We include as many aquatic ingredients in our fish flake formula as possible because they’re more natural for fish to eat and digest, which leads to healthier fish and cleaner water,” Modica said.
Seachem also has flake foods made with aquatic ingredients, including NutriDiet Shrimp and Chlorella Flakes.
“We’ve recently made some slight improvements to our NutriDiet Flake Foods, and our newly enhanced formulas have extremely high nutrient and vitamin content,” said David Lee, Northeast sales manager at Seachem Laboratories.
Aquatic organisms play an important role in proper fish nutrition, but you’ll also find flake foods containing ingredients familiar to human diets as well. Tetra’s popular TetraMin flakes made with the Active Life Formula include antioxidants for immune benefits and prebiotics for digestive health. API Fishcare’s Tropical Flakes have an ingredient list that includes peas and beets, used for their nutrients that boost digestion and enhance color.
Packaging with a Purpose
Communication is key when it comes to educating customers on the types of ingredients included in flake and pellet foods and the benefits of those ingredients.
“While we’ve always engineered our food products to deliver superior nutrition, we understand that health-conscious pet owners today don’t want to just know what the ingredients are in their fish food, they want to know specifically how the ingredients in those formulas benefit the fish,” said John Pailthorp, vice president of Marketing at Pet, Home & Garden, Spectrum Brands Pet LLC. “That’s why we’re highlighting nutritional information on our new packaging designs.”
The TetraMin Flake products have a new look designed to help customers identify and find the foods they need and help them more accurately choose the proper nutrition for their specific fish species. In addition to highlighting the improvements made to the overall formula, the packaging features the species of fish more prominently to help identify the type of fish for which each food is appropriate. Retailers can also direct customers to the Fish Type section of Tetra’s website, Tetra-fish.com, to learn the right flake or pellet for their particular species.
Flake and pellet foods are a staple of most aquarium fish diets. They’re the products customers reach for when looking for a convenient food that’s easy to feed and provides a complete diet. But the category shouldn’t be taken for granted. Use the educational materials and POS materials available from your distributors and manufacturers to highlight new formulas and ingredients, and bring attention to new additions and improved formulas in familiar product lines. It’s a great way to increase foot traffic and build a relationship with your customers who are looking for an expert they can trust when it comes to caring for their fish.