MANHATTAN, KAN. — More than 130 pet food industry professionals hailing from 18 different states gathered at Kansas State University (K-State) on Nov. 2 for KibbleCon Lite 2023. Organized by K-State Innovation Partners, the event offered “bite-sized” insights on pet food and health, from the latest trends to the newest nutritional research, as well as several networking opportunities.

Michael Johnson, principal of consumer strategy at BSM Partners, kicked off the event, discussing the growth and latest trends in the industry and the significant role consumers play in the industry.

Next up was Will Henry, director of technology and R&D at Extru-Tech, Inc., who provided insights on extrusion when creating single or co-extruded, specialty pet foods and treats. Henry highlighted the importance of selecting appropriate binders and the thermal-mechanical energy ratio to create a durable, yet palatable food or treat.

In a panel, Lonnie Hobbs, Ph.D., assistant professor of agricultural economics at K-State, Sajid Alavi, Ph.D., professor of grain science at K-State, and Guy Allen, senior agricultural economist at K-State, discussed ongoing research in the industry, particularly in the area of sustainability. Kathy Gross, Ph.D., adjunct professor at K-State and former R&D director at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, moderated the panel.

Concluding the afternoon, Julia Pezzali, Ph.D., who was recently named assistant professor at K-State and will lead the university’s pet food program, highlighted the university’s role in helping advance the industry’s knowledge of pet health and nutrition.

As part of this, several K-State graduate students presented their latest research in a competition, with winners receiving funds to help further their findings. Winners included:

  • Alania Mooney, first place for “Protein quality evaluation of fish, vegetable and insect protein sources for pet food”
  • Youhan Chen, second place for “Effects of inoculation dosage and fermentation duration on crude protein content increase and in-vitro protein digestibility of soybean meal fermented by Asperigillus Oryzae
  • Larisaa Koulicoff, third place for “Utilization of dried bakery products as an ingredient in extruded pet food”

“The [K-State] pet food program has worked very closely with the pet food industry and I think that’s why it’s a very successful program,” Pezzali shared. “We are here to listen to you, to your needs or challenges, and make sure we promote the growth and innovation of the pet food industry. I may not have all the answers, but we can work all together to promote innovation and provide solutions to the industry.

“The best part of this program is that we have moved to a very diverse team of experts,” she concluded. “We have people from agriculture economics, we have ingredient suppliers, we have engineering, food scientists and people in food safety, and what I bring to the board here is the nutrition part. I think nutrition is a very important part of the pet nutrition industry… I bring you to K-State to combine all this interdisciplinary work and research to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs and cats — and to support the growth of the pet food industry.”

Read more about pet food and treat industry events.