This article was published in the March 2022 issue of the magazine. Pet food production. Read it and other articles from this issue in our March Digital Edition.

Although starches are not essential nutrients for dogs and cats, they are an important aspect of formulation and processing. Product properties and processing methods determine which type of starch ingredient is best for each application.

Diagram of the digestive system of a dog.

Higher levels of resistant starch may benefit colon health in pets, but there are currently technological limitations to achieve this. (Source: ©DECADE3D – STOCK.ADOBE.COM)

Starch molecules gelatinize or break down when exposed to water and heat. This gelatinization makes the starch digestible and contributes to the texture, structure and expansion of the final product. This makes choosing the right starch for the right application very important for processors.

Plant-derived starches are polysaccharides containing two types of glucose molecules: amylose and amylopectin. According to Patrick Luchsinger, nutrition and pet food marketing manager for Ingredion Incorporated, Westchester, Illinois, different starch ingredients contain a different ratio of amylose to amylopectin, and this ratio determines the functionality of each ingredient.

“For example, tapioca starch typically contains 17% amylose and 83% amylopectin, which helps provide extended stability and freeze/thaw resistance in canned pet bread,” Luchsinger said. “Conversely, pea starch is typically 35% amylose and 65% amylopectin, which helps provide firmness and structure in products like canned bread.”

“Starches can provide a variety of functional benefits, including assistance with water binding, viscosity, freeze/thaw stability, cleaning control, and texture,” said Conor Sullivan, Senior Technical Services Specialist, Cargill, Minneapolis. “For example, starch can help develop the texture and texture of a moist, extruded pet treat, resulting in a reduction in chew time.”

“With insufficient starch content, extrusion can fail,” said Patrick Louchsinger, marketing manager for nutrition and pet food at Ingredion Incorporated.

Legumes, tubers and grain ingredients contain starch. Some of the most common starch ingredients used in pet food formulations come from corn, potatoes, tapioca, rice and peas, but researchers are looking for new ways to incorporate starch into ancient grains and other legume ingredients.

Choice wisely

Starches May Benefit Colon Health in Pets

There are two main categories of starch ingredients used in pet food and treat formulations—native starches and modified starches—and each is suited to different processing functions and product requirements, Sullivan says.

Native starches come from botanical sources, including corn, tapioca, and potatoes. Depending on the starch, these ingredients have different viscosity and gel characteristics, Sullivan says, but have limitations in heat, acid, and shear stability.

Enter modified starches. Modified starches have been chemically improved to improve processing functionality and formulation, including storage stability, texture, heat, acid and shear stability, and freeze/thaw stability. They are ideal for wet pet food or dry extruded treats because of the high heat, acid and shear stability requirements of the extrusion and retort processes, Sullivan says.

“There are many types of starches and choosing the one that will give you the results you want can be challenging as there are many starch bases and technologies including crosslinked, substituted, pregelatinized, acidified, dextrinated, enzyme converted, OSA modified and physical ‘ Luchsinger said.

In dry pet food, starches can be used to increase kibble volume, density and texture, and to bind other ingredients in the formulation. Laxinger noted that injection-molded or extruded treats require a starch content that will hold up during processing without falling apart or creating an undesirable texture.

“The use of native starch in the dry extrusion process for pet food typically results in disappointing results,” Sullivan said. “Most native corn starches cannot withstand high temperatures. Instead, we advise customers to use a modified starch with higher heat resistance and branch replacements, a combination that provides the process stability required for molding and gelling in dry extrusion applications.”

“Starch can help develop the texture and texture of a moist, extruded pet treat, resulting in a reduction in chew time,” said Conor Sullivan, Senior Technical Services Specialist at Cargill.

Wet pet foods in the form of a sauce may have starches added to stabilize the viscosity during cutting or autoclaving processes. They can also be used in high viscosity applications to achieve a clear or glossy appearance as well as freeze/thaw stabilization of the product.

Moving the needle

Processors looking for starchy ingredients with simple label names and grain-free attributes have an expanding range of options to choose from without sacrificing functionality. In some cases, new starch ingredients may even offer improved functionality, especially in terms of organoleptic properties.

Starch Starch is colorless, tasteless and odorless and plays a role in binding, gelling, thickening, strengthening, expanding and otherwise structuring pet food and care products. (Source: ©Mara Zemgaliete –

“As new processing methods are invented, these starches are getting even better in both functionality and visual/sensory properties,” Luchsinger said. “For example, Ingredion’s recently introduced NOVATION Lumina functional starches provide superior visual and color properties compared to traditional physically modified starches. Recently, new functional ingredients of waxy cassava native starch have become available. These products have improved functionality for both pet treatment and wet food.”

Luchsinger proposed tapioca starch as a grain-free option for canned wet pet food in bread form. Ingredion’s NOVATION® 3300 tapioca starch functional ingredient, which may be listed simply as “tapioca starch” on a pet food label, can impart firmness and structure to this type of product and prevent water and fat from separating during cooking.

Cargill’s SimPure range of label-friendly texturing solutions are designed to replace modified starches with clean label alternatives. For the pet food industry, the company offers SimPure starches to stabilize the viscosity and add shine to products in sauce, Sullivan says.

“An added benefit is that SimPure starches also function as one system thickeners, allowing pet food manufacturers to add peas or other particles to their prepared gravy and be confident that the starch will continue to hold everything in suspension through pumping and retorting, without breaks,” Sullivan added.

Modified starches can withstand higher temperatures than natural starches.Modified starches are chemically fortified to withstand high temperatures, shear or acid during processing, making them ideal for extrusion or autoclaving. (Source: Cargill)

The company recently added SimPure tapioca starch to the list, which caters to both clean label and grain-free formulations, along with potato starch ingredients.

Ingredient suppliers are trying to better understand how starches can be used to improve quality and nutrition. Manufacturers seeking to create products with specific characteristics and claims should look to this vendor experience to ensure that the right starch ingredients are used in the right applications.

“The key is to find a starch that matches your processing methods and desired functionality,” Sullivan said. “Working with your ingredient supplier can save you hours of development time.”

More about product development, ingredients and formulation.

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