In Europe alone, 80 million households have at least one cat or one dog; collectively, these pets eat around 8.5 million tons of pet food per year. These figures are impressive, but they also demonstrate how important it is to produce all pet food ingredients sustainably. The European Commission has also addressed this topic: A working group is developing a methodology to evaluate the Product Environment Footprint (PEF) of pet food. Similar to the Nutri-Score which labels the nutritional value of foodstuffs, an environmental score will be applied to packaging on a volun-tary basis to show consumers how environmentally friendly their pet food was produced along the value chain.
Diana Pet Food is already strongly committed to sustainability, not least because the company’s raw materials are mainly byproducts of food production that are not consumed by humans and would otherwise be discarded. Now the company is going a step further. “We have developed a system that follows PEF guidelines and can be used to analyze the life cycle of our products,” says Aurélie de Ratuld, Sustainability Manager at Diana Pet Food.
Seven environmental factors in view
The tool, which is called an Eco-Design Matrix, encompasses the entire product portfolio, including almost all raw materials and their environmental impact along the value chain. Aurélie de Ratuld explains how it works using an example. “Suppose a colleague in Argentina wants to compare three different substances that promote the palatability of a dog food, meaning it makes the food tastier to the animal.” The employee clicks on the three substances in the system and gets a comparative analysis with a network diagram that lists seven factors: water consumption, land use, the emission of CO2eq and particulate matter, eutrophication (the concentration of nutrients in the ecosystem), the acidification of soil and water, and abiotic depletion (resource consumption, which includes the use of minerals and fossil fuels).
“Our researchers and product developers can then decide to eco-design one of the products. The many pieces of information provided by the database help them improve the product in terms of its ecological footprint,” says Aurélie de Ratuld. “They can determine which environmental impact occurs at which part of the value chain.” In the example case, the colleague finds that 80 % of the environmental impact occurs during raw material sourcing. There are now a number of options for improving this by working with local producers or by adjusting raw materials and ingredients, the purchasing process, or the transport and packaging of materials.
The tool is then adjusted, and the computer links the results to a model which allows all individual steps to be simulated. “We know our raw materials and products well. With the help of the program and the many parameters we can set, we can now find the best combinations,” says Aurélie de Ratuld. This includes trying out different types of packaging or, as in the example with the products manufactured in Argentina, finding the closest possible source. An option might be to start the process directly in Diana Pet Food’s new sustainable factory in Colombia, which would improve environmental performance during the production stage and be closer to the customers. The last step in the process is for product developers to compare their designs with previous products. If the new product has a lower environmental impact, it can be selected as the best option to go into production.
“We have developed a system that follows PEF guidelines and can be used to analyze the life cycle of our products.”
Aurélie de Ratuld,
Sustainability Manager at Diana Pet Food
We know our raw materials and products well. With the help of the program and the many parameters we can set, we can now find the best combinations.Aurélie de Ratuld, Sustainability Manager at Diana Pet Food
Consumers value sustainability
The potential of the Eco-Design Matrix is huge, as Diana Pet Food sells around 500 products worldwide. “We are currently discussing partnership opportunities with our customers based on our eco-design approach, and are suggesting new product selections that we hope will win over customers.” In addition, Diana Pet Food is working internally to proactively improve the environmental performance of the portfolio and to offer something new to the pet food industry: eco-designed palatability enhancers.
The process is complex, but it’s worth it. Aurélie de Ratuld describes the benefits by saying, “We can demonstrate that we’re change agents, and we can lead the industry with our commitment.” With the Eco-Design Matrix, the company has initiated a process that will permanently increase sustainability. “Ultimately, consumers also appreciate that,” says the expert. In a recent survey of 224 French cat and dog owners that was conducted by the company, 85 % said they were interested in having an environmental score on the packaging of the pet food they buy. “In addition to the environmental benefits, this is also a clear argument for us to set ourselves apart from our competitors.”