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Finding Fanatistic Food For Fussy Felines

A small animal feed company is tickling cats' palates in an effort to find out just what appeals to feline taste buds.

Camtech Nutrition has set up a furry taste test panel in association with animal behaviourist expert Mark Vette, with research funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology through its Technology New Zealand scheme.

The likes and dislikes of the 12 member team of cats are helping the company determine what flavours are most desirable in dried cat biscuits.

Martin Blampied, Camtech's General Manager, explains that the research project needed to establish a controlled environment and monitor health, well-being and overall enthusiasm for the product.

"Cat food is all about palatability and flavour; making the correct nutritional balance is easy compared to that It's a matter of getting the flavouring right, then incorporating it in the extruded food, and topping it off with a spray-on taste booster," says Mr Blampied.

Technology New Zealand's funding of around $18,000 helped the company form an alliance with another pet food company to share costs, develop the research programme and carry out the on-going testing over an initial two year period. Random age and cat breeds were chosen to make up the test colony, which live on Mr Vette's south Auckland property.

"The project is of great benefit to us as we are working in a price sensitive sector in a category dominated by multi-nationals with a high R&D spend on palatability and performance "We are finding ways of improving margins through research in the fast growing pet food category," says Mr Blampeid.

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Dried cat food makes up around 10% of the company's products, which specialises in stock and equine feeds. Mr Blampied says the technology and expertise is easily translated into developing cat and dog food, with formulation to internationally recognised standards and guidelines.

The research project will continue indefinitely, which should give new hope to caring cat owners locked in a battle of wills with their pets at feeding time.

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