Return to Blog December 8, 2022

PetShure® Imaginarium 2022 Seminar Highlights Pet Food Industry Trends


PetShure® Imaginarium, a collaborative think tank for innovative endeavors and product development, founded by Balchem’s Animal Health and Nutrition Group, was held this November and offered valuable insights into the results of more than 3 years’ worth of research. In partnership with Balchem and the Poultry Science Department at Auburn University, the two-day conference highlighted solutions, evolving technology and market trends in the pet food industry.

This year’s Imaginarium focused on sustainable pet treat ingredients and processing. The results highlight a unique opportunity to meet a growing consumer emphasis on pet nutrition sustainability while also increasing profitability.

Committed to Pet Food Innovation

The focus of Balchem’s PetShure® Imaginarium 2022 was centered on upcycling protein co-product components often sent to rendering or, in some cases, discarded. The program documented creative ways to use these highly nutritious protein co-products as pet treat ingredients, by increasing nutritional value and reducing waste. Balchem’s Innovation Team, Tilley Distribution, and graduate students from the Starkey Research Laboratory at Auburn have cultivated creative processes to increase the value of protein co-products to the benefit of farmers and make high-volume pet treats more environmentally friendly.

Graduate student Joshua Flees analyzed the financial viability of dedicated, separate processing facilities required to produce these treats at scale. His research found that even after manufacturers invested in additional processing capabilities, they’d reap a positive return on investment in just a few years.

Anticipating Customer Needs with Tilley’s Adam Bosset

On the heels of the Imaginarium, we sat down with Tilley’s Commercial Director, Adam Bosset, to learn more about these types of industry collaborations and what sustainability means to Tilley, its clients and the consumer.

How did Tilley Distribution first get involved with Balchem’s PetShure® Imaginarium initiative?

Tilley Distribution first connected with Auburn University through Balchem Corporation in 2019.  Eric Altom, Ph.D., Balchem’s companion animal Technical Nutritionist, had a prior professional relationship with Dr. Charles Starkey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Poultry Science at Auburn University. Together, Dr. Starkey and Dr. Altom began developing small projects evaluating the unique applications of protein restructuring for companion animal nutrition and through this, making the connection with Tilley Distribution as a necessary supplier of sodium alginate in efforts to develop a unique solution for restructured pet foods and treats.

How common are these types of collaborations at Tilley and in the industry?

These types of collaborations are not necessarily frequent; however, when there is an existing common bond of association and expertise, a partnership of symbiotic ingredients and objectives results in successful research projects like that of Tilley Distribution and Balchem’s Animal and Nutrition Health Division. Given the momentum of this project, we expect this to be the first of many partnerships between Tilley Distribution and academic research collectives.  Ultimately, we’d like solutions that come out of these collaborative efforts to be shared and implemented throughout the pet food and treat manufacturing industries.

What is the long-term goal for collaboration with programs like Balchem’s PetShure® Imaginarium?

In this specific scenario, our goals are to support pet food and treat manufacturers throughout the global industry in their efforts to re-value and re-imagine traditionally devalued protein co-products.  In the long term, we are aligning Tilley’s extensive portfolio with the innovation and sustainability efforts of researchers and manufacturers in animal nutrition. Going forward, Tilley Distribution is excited to participate in similar approaches to the human food and beverage spaces with solution-driven research and ingredient support based on customer product development needs, manufacturing objectives and consumer expectations. In both of these cases, our goal is to add value as a trusted and preferred supplier.

What value does it add for Tilley clients?

Collaborative product initiatives like this offer indirect and direct value by allowing manufacturers to up-value traditionally devalued raw material co-products generated by primary processing facilities.  There is also an opportunity for Tilley to segue into new and existing accounts through the introduction of ingredients and merit that Tilley Distribution can offer, whether that be through unique products, services, technical support and/or ingredient redundancy.

How many manufacturing customers ask questions about ingredient sourcing and sustainability?

In the last decade, the questions regarding ingredient sourcing, its origins and related sustainability impacts have become a larger and larger focus, especially with Fortune 500 category companies who want to know not only where ingredients are sourced, but also how they’re grown, harvested, processed, packaged, transported and delivered to their locations. Carbon footprint is also a primary measure for a successful sustainability program and to be considered throughout the product development process.

In other words, is consumer sentiment for sustainability translating through to distributors and suppliers?

Absolutely. Today’s consumers versus those of previous generations are bigger thinkers, label readers, more socially engaged, socially sensitive and more open-minded to how they can affect a greater sustainability impact while improving the quality of life for themselves, their families and pets. Virtually all large and mid-scale manufacturing partners are directing distributors and suppliers to embrace and enforce importance of sustainability in every area, in every ingredient and in every culture they can influence or affect.

How does Tilley evaluate a product’s sustainability and quality?

Tilley Distribution takes a definitive stance on finished product quality and the sustainability of the ingredients we provide to our customers. Regarding hydrocolloids specifically, Tilley has relationships with their supply partner base, some as long as three decades. In that period of time, Tilley Distribution has been able to filter through those suppliers whose products were not up to par with our standards, values and practices. The hydrocolloids industry is highly sustainable based on how seaweeds are cultivated and sustainably wild-fished and conserved. This raw material which grows in the ocean offers many eco-friendly and regenerative attributes such as forestry or perennial crops. These plants are grown and harvested in an environment that is not exposed to chemicals, fertilizers, slash-and-burn techniques or other destructive farming type practices.

  • Growing conditions of the seaweed is in seawater and receives zero growth chemicals or fertilizers
  • Seaweed farming is a conservation measure and does not degrade or threaten indigenous species or compete with natural habitat
  • Seaweed farming sustains over 100,000 families throughout the world
  • Energy for processing comes largely from recycled materials
  • By-products or waste stream ingredients from manufacturing go predominately to agricultural application
  • Seaweed is a renewable resource and regenerates itself quickly while contributing positively to its environment
  • Seaweed farming provides natural, facilitated cover and habitat for native fish and saltwater species
  • Minimal landfill impact
  • Vast majority of associated Logistics incurred is by Water and Rail

One subtle but important language recommendation in pet food marketing is transitioning from “by-products” to “co-products.” What sort of difference do you think this will make in consumer interest?

This is basically correctly defining a traditional nomenclature associated with devalued raw ingredients with historically little options but a rendering end result. As mentioned, the new “pet parent” of today versus the pet owners of yesterday accept more self-accountability and place a much greater emphasis on how they can positively affect sustainability impacts while improving the quality of life for their pets. The term “co-products” offers a revised and more accurate term for resources once defined as by-products. It presents the opportunity for pet parent consumers to consider this material as an alternative source of nutrition rather than a concession regarding their pets’ diets.

What is Tilley doing to make its pet food ingredient offerings meet consumer demand?

I think Tilley Distribution is listening, learning, watching and becoming more acutely aware of our ever-changing culture and its consumers. It is not up to us to set trends, it should be our goal to adapt to the constantly evolving trends, needs and expectations of our climate and customer culture. Partnering with industry leaders such as Balchem Animal Nutrition and Health, and providing ingredients that reflect a strong sustainability impact, clean labeling, recognizability, and user-friendliness coupled with economical and nutritional value is what Tilley continues to strive for as a supplier partner.

What technical elements or practices can Tilley provide to make pet food products more profitable and sustainable for its clients?

Tilley Distribution offers Technical Support to our customer base in the way of innovative product development, process improvement, non-conformance intervention and correction, onboarding of new processes, and ingredient inclusion. We have a trained staff with over 60 years of cumulative experience available to assist our customers’ project needs.

If customers had questions, who would they contact to learn more?

If you are interested in collaborative research projects, please reach out to our Commercial Director of Hydrocolloids, Adam Bosset, at or our Technical Fellow, Tim Hoilman, at While Adam is our hydrocolloids portfolio leader and Tim is one of our technical experts, they can also direct any other ingredient request to the best-suited technical resource within Tilley for support.

Adam Bosset is Commercial Director at Tilley Distribution and brings a decade of experience in the hydrocolloids market to work for our customers. Follow Adam and Tilley Distribution on LinkedIn.