Opacity Alternatives to Titanium Dioxide in Pet Food Applications
No-No Lists Continue to Include Titanium Dioxide
As of May 2019, Petco officially removed all products that do not meet their standards of “top-quality, artificial-free food and treats” from their shelves. Both AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) and the FDA consider titanium dioxide a food color from a natural source; however, the widely used colorant continues to land on “No-No” lists like Petco’s.
Titanium dioxide is often used as a whitening and opacifying agent to create a uniform canvas for added color. The mixture of different proteins, grains, and vegetables in pet food base formulations typically creates an undesirable color, often leading to color inconsistencies in the final product. Similar to priming a wall for paint, whitening agents provide an optimal starting canvas, enabling better visibility of the added color, which also helps to reduce color usage rates.
Color is an important differentiator in pet food, because consumers equate color variety in pet food to better nutrition and flavor: greens for vegetables, reds and browns for proteins like beef, orange for superfoods like pumpkins and sweet potatoes, etc. In a 2019 study conducted by Sensient, purchase intent quintuples for bright, multicolored kibble versus brown kibble.
Pet owners preferred bright, multicolored kibble versus brown kibble
Alternative Opacity and Whitening Solutions to Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide was banned in Europe in 2022, and several U.S. states considered legal bans as well in 2023, though none passed into law. As titanium dioxide falls under criticism and scrutiny in North America and around the world, many brands are looking for clean label whitening alternatives.
Sensient’s response to this shifting regulatory environment for such a well-established colorant has been long in the making. Our Avalanche™ portfolio addresses the need for an alternative whitening and opacifying solution to titanium dioxide in the pet food category.
We work tirelessly to address gaps in the natural color industry, and I am excited to announce that the Avalanche™ portfolio is growing to address the needs of our customers in extruded, baked, and retort pet applications.
Avalanche™ Xtra is a selection of cost-effective clean label white alternatives that work well in extruded or baked pet products. These solutions can also be used in topical applications for decorative products, such as icings or sprinkles on pet treats. Avalanche™ Xtra has not demonstrated success in retort applications due to the high heat, water activity, and pressure.
Avalanche™ Ultra is designed for mid to high water activity applications without an impact to texture or viscosity. It can be used in extruded and baked products and is one option for retort canned goods. This pillar of solutions is well-suited for semi-moist treats or processing with holding times at high water activity, such as production processes where the product is left in a holding tank for an extended period of time before its use.
Our latest addition to the Avalanche™️ portfolio joins several successful options in the MB line, adding improved stability in low pH systems! Avalanche™ MB is a mineral-based line of clean label white solutions that is extremely heat-stable and useful for extruded, baked, and retort applications without texture or viscosity impacts. These solutions typically provide the best whitening capabilities when compared to Avalanche™ Xtra and Avalanche™ Ultra solutions. However, an impact to the end product’s overall mineral content may need to be considered depending on the usage rate of Avalanche™ MB. It is also not stable in low pH systems, which can pose a challenge in pet food processing. Understanding when and how the color is added can enable color experts to help developers troubleshoot and improve color performance in the end product.
Avalanche™ Helio is designed for high water AND high heat conditions and can be useful for retort, baked, and extruded products without impacting the texture or viscosity. It has very similar performance to Avalanche™ MB solutions. Avalanche™ Helio and Avalanche™ MB are the best options for retort products.
Avalanche™ Nebula is designed for high water and beverage applications, so typically is not needed by pet developers. These solutions actually improve upon the performance of titanium dioxide because they stay suspended in applications like syrups and beverages.
The biggest challenges in the industry for whitening and opacity remain retort canned goods. The retort process for wet pet food is extremely strenuous, a combination of high heat, moisture, and pressure that threatens the stability of even the best-performing options.
All Avalanche™ products are AAFCO-approved and there are grain-free options available within each pillar. The Avalanche™ portfolio is filled with clean label whitening solutions with superior stability compared to industry alternatives.
We encourage pet developers who previously have not been able to find a suitable alternative solution to titanium dioxide for their application to try the latest Avalanche™ solutions.