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AFB LATAM Director talks with All Pet Food

All Pet Food Magazine recently talked with Marcelo Beraldo da Costa, LATAM Director of AFB International, about the challenges, growth, innovations and solutions the company will be working on this year.

Tell us a little about your professional career.

Before joining AFB, my most outstanding experience, I worked as a sales executive focused on ingredient and additives commercialization for animal and human nutrition at Danisco.

My journey at AFB started in 2005 as a Sales Executive in Brazil. At that time, we were still starting the company’s expansion in Latin America. I worked focusing on the development of all areas necessary for the construction and operation of the facilities in Jaguariúna – SP. In 2009, I was promoted to Brazil Director. In 2019, in the same position, I assumed responsibility for the operation in Mexico. Now, in 2022, I am very grateful to have been promoted to LATAM Director.

I graduated from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) with a degree in Food Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and Marketing from ESPM.

Can you give us a small presentation of the company and its mission in the market?

AFB International was founded in 1986 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. It is a subsidiary of Ensign-Bickford Industries, a private company for over 185 years focused on space and defense, pet food science, and biotechnology.

Our vision from the beginning was to create the best flavor palatants and make pet food taste amazing. Since then, AFB has partnered with pet food manufacturers to make dog and cat food, treats, and supplements with great flavors. This way, we ensure that pets receive the vital nutrition they need. We further enhance this partnership through research expertise, technical support, and outstanding customer service.

What are your main challenges as the new director of the company? What is your focus for 2023? What do you think is essential to focus your efforts on?

Now, as LATAM Director, my team and I are challenged to drive sales growth in the region, increase profitability and develop product requirements that meet the ever-changing needs of our emerging market.

What is the importance of working on the palatability of pet food products?

Even very nutritious food is worthless if a cat or dog doesn’t eat it.

That’s where the right palatability agent can make a difference. Palatants are made with ingredients specially developed to improve food intake. They are created to stimulate one or more of a pet’s sensory capabilities – olfactory, kinesthetic, taste, and texture.

What role do flavorings play in achieving good palatability?

Palatants are essential to achieve good palatability, but it is far from being the only influencing factor. There are crucial factors for good food performance: product formulation, quality of ingredients, production process, etc.

These factors, together with the right palatability agent for the pet food company’s needs, are what will bring performance. That is why it is so important to consult the entire process that AFB provides to its clients because we think of palatability with a holistic view.

What flavoring technologies/proposals are currently growing?

We noticed great growth in new powder products with very high performance for cats. On the flip side, we’ve also seen a growing need for cost-effective palatability as manufacturers grapple with last year’s cost increases while, at the same time, receiving pressure from their customers about the economy and inflation. So, it’s a contradiction in needs right now.

In relation to the trends in the industry, such as the high pet humanization or changes in food, what changes have you made in your production process, technologies, or products?

Today, there is more focus on health and wellness. There is a desire to see more natural ingredients. That’s a lot like human eating tendencies, and that’s no coincidence. Human tendencies often end up migrating to pet food a little later.

For AFB, we see it as a responsibility to ensure that pets enjoy the taste of their meals, while also respecting the trends that our customers want to claim in their diets. Vegetarian dog food requires a vegetarian flavoring agent. A greater interest in wet cat food calls for palatants that work well in this format. The inclusion of a nutritional ingredient may require extra palatability to mask its taste. Therefore, in this scenario of humanization, our innovation must focus on two things at the same time: meeting our customers’ palatability needs and their brand philosophy. As the pet food market grows and changes, AFB must constantly innovate to meet the needs of pet food companies.

What policies has AFB adopted in terms of the circular economy and sustainability?

AFB is committed to sustainable development. We always aim for a balance between protecting the environment and economic growth.

We ensure the sustainability of our projects, developments, and products throughout their life cycle, considering economic, environmental, and social impacts.

In addition, we train our workers on issues related to the correct disposal of all waste generated in the manufacturing process, also covering suppliers, competent bodies, and representative entities. The treatment of this waste is essential, and we correctly send it to treatment stations by environmental legislation.

AFB also achieved a “Silver” rating with ECOVADIS, a third party sustainability auditor. This high score reflects the quality of our company’s sustainability management.

We also completed the self-assessment via SDG Action Manager against the 10 Principles of the United Nations Global Compact and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs work as a guideline to improve people’s and the planet’s conditions by 2030. AFB is committed to achieving this.

Another important action is being a member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition for two years, a global not-for-profit organization working to help the pet food industry towards a more sustainable future.

What do you consider to be the main current challenges for industry growth?

Despite the growth, the pet food market has also been challenging over the past two years. The entire pet food industry has focused on securing supply. The challenges arising from global supply chain issues and material shortages make our industry stronger and improve our resilience, but I believe they also cause the pet food innovation to temporarily stall. Fortunately, our industry is coming out of it now, and stronger than ever to continue the transformation of this landscape.