Mussel-ing in on China: NZ’s Nutreats taps growing pet ownership with new arthritis cat supplement

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nutreats Hip + Joint supplement contains Greenshell mussel powder (GlycOmega) ©Nutreats
Nutreats Hip + Joint supplement contains Greenshell mussel powder (GlycOmega) ©Nutreats

Related tags: Mussel, pet nutrition, Arthritis, Joint health, New zealand

New Zealand-based pet nutrition brand Nutreats says China’s growing pet ownership is offering significant new opportunities, including for its new arthritis dietary supplement for cats.

The supplement (Vitals – Hip + Joint) was first launched in November, containing its functional mussel powder. It will be available on China’s e-commerce platforms including Taobao as early as December 2020.

The Nutreats brand was initially focused on the pet treat business.

However, “the treats space is very competitive in China, so we are looking for more value-added products like supplements to utilise the Greenshell mussel​,” said Ben S Winters, director at parent company Aroma New Zealand Ltd.

China is a key market for the company. According to Euromonitor International, there were about 87,000 domestic cats, compared to 93,000 dogs in 2018.

The cat population is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18.5% to reach 171,000 in 2022, while the dog population will grow slower at 9.8% to reach 136,000.

Winters explained the firm decided to develop a supplement for cats after identifying a gap in the market.

The humanisation of pets in China is phenomenal with smaller apartments these days and preference for smaller pets like cats,” ​he told NutraIngredients-Asia.

Pet owners now are also generally more knowledgeable and will consider the products and ingredients they buy for their companions (pets), especially more premium quality products​.”

China’s pet ownership trend is unique according to the 2017 White Book of China’s Pet Industry. In other countries, pet owners are generally older, but in China, the rise in the middle-class population with more disposable income to spend on pets, more living alone, and couples fearing the financial burden of children have boosted ownership.

Nutreats has a distributor in China handling the promotion and sales. The firm is starting with a trial shipment first, Winters explained: “Hopefully there’d be good reception, and we can move on good volume.​”

The supplement is also available in New Zealand, although only as samples at leading pet stores. About 99% of Nutreats products are exported, with only 1% domestic sales.

The family-owned Aroma NZ is a B2B company supplying Greenshell mussel powder and oil, as well as oyster powder, shark cartilage powder, marine collagen powder and abalone powder to animal and human food companies in more than 40 countries globally. The firm operates its own mussel farm in the Marlborough region.

Mussel power

Winters said its mussel-based ingredients are mostly used for joint health in both human and animals, to reduce inflammation and improve joint mobility.

We see the demand increase every year, and the demand especially in the animal space has been encouraging, which shows the product works well​.

The functional ingredient in Nutreats Hip + Joint supplement is the Greenshell mussel powder (commercial name: GlycOmega), which makes up 70% of the formulation.

Derived from green lipped mussel meat, it is a rich source of Glycosaminoglycans which make up cartilage and the synovial fluid found in joints. It increases flexibility, elasticity and tensile strength to the articular cartilage, to help maintain and support hip and joint health.

It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, and is also a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

The other ingredients in the supplement are sheep liver powder for vitamin A, B, D as well as palatability, marine cartilage powder, seaweed powder, and vitamin C as a natural preservative and antioxidant.

Delivered as a powder, with the recommended dosage of about 1g per day for cats weighing less than 10kg. It goes up to 1.5g for 10-20kg, 2g for 20-30kg and 3g for 40kg and above.

It is fed as a topper on cat food such as kibble or canned food.

Winters said as a natural product, the supplement is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory, with no side effects. He said if owners went to the vet for joint or mobility problems, pets would be prescribed drugs which may incur side effects such as stomach pain.

About half of the GlycOmega the firm produces go into the human nutraceutical space, with the other half in pet nutrition.

Winters said GlycOmega was becoming a functional food ingredient for both humans and pets.

It’s really for the whole family now, and pets are considered part of the family now​.”

Nutreats is planning to expand its pet supplement range, considering other functional areas such as digestive health.

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