“The gap is getting closer and closer,” said Dieter Zopf, vice president of sales for Middleby’s pet food processing division, referring to the gap between the quality of human food and pet food.

This is one overarching pet food trend driving global market growth, according to Zopf, but it is not the only one. In Sept. 2018, Zopf attended iba, the world’s leading trade show for professionals in bakery, confectionery and snack production, in Munich, where Middleby displayed its pet food processing equipment and solutions. Although the equipment manufacturer has participated in the trade show for more than 20 years, this was the first year the company had a booth dedicated to pet food processing.

“We were very curious to see how it would work,” Zopf said. “We realized during the last show that a few pet food companies were always strolling the show floor, and we wanted to make sure we captured their attention.”

Dieter Zopf, vice president of sales for Middleby's pet food processing division, at iba 2018.
While at the show, Zopf said the booth drew interest from many people across many fields. He said people from other food industries, especially baking, are starting to realize the potential in pet food. He also noticed interest in more specific trends, including freeze-dried pet food and treats, premium and super-premium kibble, and clean-label products.

“The freeze-dried pet food area is a growing trend that has developed into a huge market,” Zopf explained. “Cozzini has several customers already making freeze-dried pet products. They are expanding rapidly and doing very well, especially in the US.” Cozzini, a subsidiary brand of Middleby Corporation working primarily in the US and Canada, is the company’s leading brand of pet food processing equipment. Besides Cozzini, Middleby’s portfolio of pet food related brands includes Alkar, Auto-Bake, Maurer-Atmos, CVP, Hinds-Bock and Spooner Vicars with more to come.

Cozzini is also driving success for pet food processors developing premium and super-premium kibble. Companies producing this kind of pet food in the US are influencing the overall market, said Zopf, causing the US pet food market to act as a trendsetter for other markets. “What you see in the US today you will see a few years later in other markets, in Europe, Asia and South America,” Zopf said.  

Zopf added that the clean-label trend in human foods is extended to pets now. “People are treating their pets today as they treat their children,” Zopf said. And as consumers pay more attention to labels, they extend this habit to the food and treats they buy for their pets.

Zopf said clean-label will have an additional impact on the packaging market. For example, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) is being used to eliminate the use of additives or preservatives to extend shelf life, as the packaging method reduces oxygen and therefore provides a more controlled environment in which to package food. Middleby subsidiary CVP Systems, Inc. already develops this specific type of packaging for its clients in the food processing industries.

Overall, Zopf said these trends – the influence of human food, freeze-dried products, premium and super-premium products and clean label – will continue to foster growth and innovation in the pet food market.

“You have to know that today’s market for pet food is a constantly growing market, and the growth factor is in the high-quality pet food,” Zopf said. "Our customers are really thinking about pet food and going in that direction because they are aware that this market is growing, it's successful, it's profitable and it's clean."

Zopf was named vice president of sales for Middleby’s pet food processing division in Sept. 2018. He leads global sales and project management for the division. Zopf has decades of experience in the overall pet food market, which he accumulated during his time working for major pet food manufacturers like Mars and Nestlé Purina, in research and development, quality, food safety and engineering before coming to Middleby.

Middleby offers various systems for the different steps of the pet food process, including grinding, blending, material handling, emulsifying, rotary molding, sheeting-and-cutting, drying, baking and bulk packaging. All of its equipment is fully-integrated to offer a complete processing line of Middleby machines. The company provides solutions for canned, freeze-dried, kibble and snack applications.

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.