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Pet Food Revolution: How Commercial Refrigeration is Transforming Pet Nutrition

By Daniella Roncarelli//September 20, 2023//

Pet Food Revolution: How Commercial Refrigeration is Transforming Pet Nutrition

By: Daniella Roncarelli//September 20, 2023//

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The shift towards fresh and frozen pet food is propelled by the increased understanding of the impact of diet on pet health. Increasingly, pet owners are becoming aware that their pets need a balanced and nutritious diet just like humans do, prompting them to explore new dietary options. Fresh and frozen foods offer higher nutritional value than traditional canned or dry foods. These foods, often produced with ingredients akin to what one might find in their own meal, provide a wholesome and varied diet that can lead to better health outcomes for pets.

Moreover, the trend for humanization of pets, treating them as family members rather than just pets, has significantly influenced the pet food industry. Pet parents are seeking higher quality, premium options that would be analogous to what they’d prefer for themselves. This includes a preference for organic, non-GMO and all-natural foods, which are often found in the fresh and frozen section of the pet food aisle.


Commercial Refrigeration

The demand for fresh and frozen pet foods has necessitated changes in the way these products are stored and displayed in pet stores and supermarkets. Commercial refrigeration is the backbone of this industry shift, playing a crucial role in maintaining the quality and safety of these foods.

Maintaining the correct temperature is critical in preventing the growth of bacteria and ensuring food safety. Fresh and frozen pet foods are susceptible to spoilage if not properly stored, leading to a loss of nutrients and potential health risks. Commercial refrigeration units are designed to maintain a consistent temperature, ensuring the food remains fresh for longer.

Beyond preservation, refrigeration also plays a significant role in the retail display of these products. Unlike traditional pet foods that can be stacked on shelves, fresh and frozen pet foods require dedicated refrigeration units. These units not only keep the food at the correct temperature but also serve to highlight these products, making them more attractive to customers.


Historical Overview

The traditional pet food industry has been dominated by canned and dry food options, with a focus on convenience and long shelf-life rather than optimal nutrition. However, a deeper understanding of pet nutrition and changing consumer attitudes towards pet care have disrupted this status quo.

Early pet foods were often limited in variety and nutritional content, primarily providing sustenance. However, as research advanced, the need for a balanced diet encompassing proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals became evident. This led to enhancements in pet food composition, but the format remained largely the same—kibble or canned.

This paradigm began shifting as pet owners started seeking foods closer to what their pets’ wild ancestors might have eaten. This shift, coupled with a broader move towards natural and minimally processed foods in human nutrition, has given rise to the fresh and frozen pet food options we see today.


Impact on Pet Health

Just as humans benefit from a diet rich in fresh, minimally processed foods, so do pets. Fresh and frozen pet foods often contain higher levels of proteins, vitamins, and minerals than their canned or dried counterparts. Furthermore, these foods are closer to a pet’s natural diet, potentially aiding digestion and overall health.

Refrigeration is key to maintaining the nutritional integrity of these foods. It helps prevent the growth of bacteria, preserves nutrients that might otherwise degrade at room temperature, and extends the shelf-life of the product. In other words, the very benefits that fresh and frozen pet foods offer are enabled and enhanced using quality commercial refrigeration.


Fresh,  Frozen Pet Food Benefits

The benefits of fresh and frozen pet foods lie in their nutritional profile and minimal processing. Unlike traditional pet food, which often involves high-heat processing, fresh and frozen pet foods are minimally processed, helping to preserve their nutrient content.

These foods are often high in protein, providing essential amino acids that pets need. They also tend to contain less filler material, such as certain grains and by-products, which may contribute to allergies or other health issues in some pets.

Vitamins and minerals, essential for a range of biological functions, are also better preserved in fresh and frozen pet foods. The low-heat or no-heat processing methods used in these foods help retain heat-sensitive nutrients like certain vitamins, which might degrade in traditional high-heat pet food manufacturing processes.


Challenges and Solutions

Refrigerating fresh and frozen pet foods is not without its challenges. Unlike dry foods, these products require precise temperature control to prevent bacterial growth and spoilage. This requirement can be particularly challenging in a retail environment, where door openings and closings can lead to temperature fluctuations.

However, advanced refrigeration solutions can help overcome these challenges. Modern commercial refrigerators and freezers designed by top manufacturers are equipped with features like automatic defrost, fan-forced air circulation and high-density insulation to ensure stable internal temperatures, even in high-traffic retail environments.

Additionally, new technologies are emerging to improve the energy efficiency of these units, aligning with the industry’s move towards more sustainable practices. For example, systems with remote monitoring capabilities can provide real-time data on energy use, allowing for optimization of consumption.


Consumer Trends

Today’s pet owners are highly conscious of the food they feed their pets. They seek options that promote health and longevity, which often leads them to fresh, raw, or frozen alternatives. The shift toward these products has been so significant that pet food manufacturers and retailers have had to adapt their operations and store layouts to accommodate the demand.

One aspect of this adaptation is the increased reliance on commercial refrigeration. As pet food retailers diversify their offerings, they need efficient, reliable refrigeration solutions to store and display fresh and frozen products. Consequently, refrigeration is not only a part of preserving and safeguarding pet food but also a critical component of the retail strategy in an increasingly competitive market.


Future Growth

As the trend toward fresh, raw and frozen pet foods continues to grow, the role of commercial refrigeration in the pet food industry will only become more essential. Refrigeration units in pet food stores and supermarkets will be critical in safely storing these products, maintaining their quality, and making them appealing to customers.

Moreover, as pet food manufacturers continue to innovate and offer new refrigerated products, the need for advanced, energy-efficient refrigeration solutions will rise. These solutions will not only need to provide exceptional temperature control but also contribute to sustainability goals — a factor increasingly considered by both businesses and consumers.

During this pet food revolution, commercial refrigeration stands as an indispensable ally, facilitating the shift toward healthier, more natural food options for pets. By continuing to evolve and improve, commercial refrigeration can help ensure that this revolution leads to long-lasting improvements in pet nutrition and wellbeing.


Daniella Roncarelli works for Due North and supports pet passionate companies who need to successfully merchandise their frozen and refrigerated products.