The current pet food industry is growing about three times faster than the packaged food industry. The major factors influencing this growth revolve around the owners’ increasing awareness of their pets’ health, the increase in nuclear families, pet humanization, as well as the adoption of more pets per household. In 2018, the global pet care industry has reached $125 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%. However, in 2020 pet food sales are expected to grow by only 4%, as opposed to the original forecast of 6%, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

That said, in 2019, North America accounted for $33 billion of the market share, making up 35% of the entire global market. The United States spends roughly $29 billion per year on pet food, followed by the UK with $4.82 billion and Brazil with $4.33 billion. In terms of some of the other continents, Europe comes in second place after North America with $23 billion, Asia with $7.6 billion, South America with $6.23 billion, and Australia with $2.4 billion.

All-in-all, pet ownership is at an all-time high. According to The American Pet Products Association, there are over 85 million households across the United States that have at least one pet. Over the last 30 years, pet ownership has risen from 56% to 68% of all households, with baby boomers accounting for 32% of all pets owned. Younger generations, such as Millennials and GenZers, make up 62%. Most of today’s pet owners are no longer interested in traditional pet foods. They seek healthy ingredients and demand higher transparency when it comes to nutritional labels. What’s more, they are willing to pay extra for them.

These trends do, however, raise some questions regarding safety and sanitization in pet food production.

Safety and Sanitary Regulatory Compliance in the Pet Food Industry

In food processing, any material accumulation, regardless of its size, will provide ample opportunities for both cross-contamination and microorganisms to fester within a conveyor system. In either scenario, it’s safe to say that you will rapidly taint an entire production after a line changeover. And with today’s technology being able to quickly trace any contamination, microbial or otherwise, back to its source, product recalls, or worse, are an almost guarantee.

When it comes to the human and pet food industries, the liabilities will go beyond mere recall and replacement costs. The potential for loss of life, which was the case with the Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) 2008 tragedy – when nine people died, and over 700 others developed food poisoning as a result of salmonella contamination – is testament to what can happen when safety and sanitation policies are not strictly enforced. The pet food industry also had its share of unfortunate events, where pets have died as a result of contamination or wrong ingredient mixes ending up in the marketplace.

Since 2011, however, with the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the largest food safety reform in the United States in the past 70 years – far stricter food grade regulations were put in place by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning the pet food processing system. As such, there’s increased pressure on pet food manufacturers to pay closer attention to safety and sanitation. Pet food processing organizations need to shift their focus away from reacting to any foreign material contamination and look toward preventing it, altogether. It’s for this reason why safety, sanitation, and easy cleaning are among the highest priorities when it comes to pet food conveyors.

Product Breakage and Line Changeovers

One of the most common issues the industry faces is product breakage and degradation when animal feed is transported through pet food conveyors. Several factors influence material degradation, including high conveyor speed, suboptimal inlet design, temperature changes, product shearing, friction-induced separation, and more. The immediate results may translate into wasted pet food products and higher production costs. Still, it can also lead to a higher risk of cross-contamination of the conveying materials, particularly in the event of line changeovers.

When pet food manufacturers are running different materials on the same lines, they need to clean and sanitize the feed conveyors between all changeovers to prevent any form of contamination. Sacrificing a bit of speed and overall production in favor of somewhat slower tube conveyors will help in minimizing many of the issues associated with product breakage. Also, a tube, disc and cable conveyor has a more sanitary design, overall, and is easier to clean than other systems like a vibrating conveyor, roller conveyor, auger conveyor, infeed conveyor, chain conveyor, bucket elevators, pneumatic conveyors, and many other types of traditional conveyors.

Safe and Sanitary Features of Tube Conveyors

Conveying systems are long and fairly complex pieces of machinery that move bulk materials across the facility. Contamination can get out of hand before anyone realizes that something is wrong. There’s a long list of different types of conveyor systems, as well as numerous ways of keeping them clean. Their design also needs to provide easy cleaning and sanitation.

It’s also critical for pet food manufacturers to keep the right nutritional mix. Doing so consistently can prove to be a challenge with most other conveyor systems. With ingredients having different densities and granularities, separation can lead to proportional inaccuracies. Cablevey’s cable and tubular drag conveyor system are better suited than buckets, pneumatics, spiral conveyors, vacuums, horizontal motion open conveyor belts, and other systems, moving material blends without altering the ratios designed by the nutritionist.

Cleaning Cable and Tube Conveyors

The majority of production facilities use bucket elevators for their bulk handling. However, these systems are not exactly hygienically designed, meaning that they require extensive interior and exterior cleaning. As a result, you will end up with a lot of downtimes, particularly during line changeovers.

Tubular cable conveyors, on the other hand, are excellent for food-grade applications because they comply with all of the FDA’s sanitation requirements and specifications. Conveyors move bulk materials by using high-strength, one-piece polymer discs. These are attached to polymer-coated 304/316 stainless steel cables that slide within stainless steel tubing, moving materials through the product stream in a gentle, quiet, and dust-contained way.

At the end of every conveying cycle, the discs will evacuate the tubing of material fines or any waste product. Any material clinging to the disc and cable assembly will also be removed during this process. Ultimately, however, every facility will develop its own cleaning protocols. These will be based primarily on the sanitation regulations and challenges posed by the materials used. The material’s reaction to water will indicate whether wet or dry cleaning would be the appropriate choice.

Wet or dry cleaning accessories can be quickly attached to the cable, allowing for fast and thorough cleaning of the system. This will help greatly in minimizing downtimes between changeovers. Cablevey conveyors offer both wet and dry tube conveyor cleaning options.

Dry Cleaning

This internal tube cleaning option is applicable for 4 inch, 6 inch and 8 inch system sizes and configurations and involves several pieces of equipment. These are:

  • Air Knife – This is a line insert strategically located to blow compressed air and eliminate any accumulated fines off of discs.
  • Brush Box – Another line insert that will brush off accumulating fines off discs.
  • Sponge Disc and Sanitizing Cleaner – This is a disposable sponge disc with an applied cleaning agent that’s run through the entire system once and discarded.
  • Urethane Wiper Disc – Finally, this is a disc insert that wipes away any particles and accumulated fines.

Wet Cleaning

Unlike dry cleaning, wet cleaning is only available for 4″, 6″, and 8” diameter systems, and it’s a fast and easy, multi-step internal tube conveyor cleaning process.

  • Water Rinse – Once all material has been discharged from the system, water will be introduced to rinse out the inside of the tube and all other components.
  • Foam Agent – Second, a foam cleaning agent is introduced into the tube, cleansing all internal parts.
  • Sanitizing Rinse – A sanitizing rinse will run through the entire system, flushing out any remaining debris, contaminants, as well as the foam agent.
  • Final Water Rinse – Lastly, a final rinse of hot water will flush out everything, including the sanitizing rinse, ensuring that the system and its components are all production-ready.

Conclusion

Cablevey Pet Food Conveyor Systems are perfectly suited to move all pet food materials and mixes. Whether your pet food product resembles potato chips, breakfast cereal, or traditional pellets, Cablevey’s process equipment can move them in a gentle and sanitary manner. Your company’s pet food conveyors can also be engineered to service any part of the production process, making them the top conveyor choice for facilities that worry about finding a conveyor that fits in their unique spaces. This includes systems through processing, mixing, and packaging. When it comes to tips for safe food processing and conveying materials, we say take advantage of convenience and less downtime with the Cablevey tubular drag cable & disc conveyor system. Reject conveyors that don’t have a sanitary design and help you achieve compliance with food safety regulations.