Posted: May 30, 2014, 9:25 a.m. EDT
Manufacturers go to great lengths to develop new, enticing and healthful fish foods.
By Keith Loria
Making something truly new in the fish food category requires lots of research and hard work. New ingredients come along all the time, but their ability to actually help the fish, rather than just being part of a nice marketing story, is where the rubber meets the road.
Chris Clevers, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif., said the company will never bring a product to market if it cannot substantiate that it will provide actual benefits to the fish.
"The product has to allow the fish to live a long and health-filled life free of any negative impacts caused by the nutritional offering,” he said. "We have a large number of experiments going on at any one time to try to find the next truly new food offerings, but it’s much harder than most people think.
"We also take lots of input from our consumer supporters and try to provide those things that they believe are important to their specific aquatic environment, provided there is a good base of customers requesting the same thing and it’s something that is actually doable,” Clevers added.
Hikari’s newest product is Coral Gumbo, a mix of natural ingredients for reef tanks that offers the corals a nutrient mix they can easily ingest, Clevers said. It will hit stores this month.
"It offers excellent polyp extension and rapid response from the corals once put in the water,” Clevers said. "We will offer it in a mini-cube format for more exact feeding based on the number of corals being kept.”
At this year’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., the company also finalized its rollout of Saki-Hikari Turtle, the first aquatic turtle food on the market that is enhanced with a probiotic and includes "odor-stop” items, which help reduce the ammonia smell common with turtle tanks, Clevers said.
New Life International, a fish food manufacturer in Homestead, Fla., introduced its new Spectrum AlgaeMAX line of sinking fish food pellets at Global.
"AlgaeMAX is an herbivore diet,” said Ian Tepoot, vice president and operations manager at the company. "This represents a new product family for us, and as such, we’ve introduced our standard AlgaeMAX 1mm sinking pellets; we also have AlgaeMAX Medium Fish formula, which are 2mm sinking pellets.
"An herbivore formula has been in demand for a while and customers have been asking for the food for New Life Spectrum brand’s entire 15 years,” Tepoot added. "However, until we could provide a compelling product, we didn’t introduce it.”
Nick Kornblith, senior product manager, consumables, at United Pet Group’s aquatics division in Cincinnati, said the company launched TetraPro foods, a new food line focused on the independent retailer.
"The TetraPro line provides advanced nutrition for healthier fish and clearer water,” he said. "The exclusive, patented low-heat manufacturing process preserves more of the essential nutrients and vitamins that fish need to thrive and grow.
"TetraPro Tropical, Tropical Color and Goldfish formulae also include a new Biotin spot crisp, proven to enhance fish health through making their digestion more effective,” he said.
Alan Blake, CEO of Yorktown Technologies LP, the Austin, Texas, company behind GloFish, said the company recently released its own brand of optimized food, developed in conjunction with United Pet Group. They developed a proprietary amino acid blend that adds pop to the fluorescent proteins in GloFish.
"GloFish food is important for us because it has been specially formulated to help optimize the color of our fluorescent fish,” he said. "While it is certainly not necessary for the fish to be beautiful and brilliant, participants in double-blind tests have stated that GloFish fluorescent fish fed GloFish-branded food are even brighter than those GloFish fed flakes from a leading competitor.”
Andy Schmidt, president of San Francisco Bay Brand Inc. in Newark, Calif., said the company recently released its new and improved Ocean Nutrition Frozen formula foods based on a new binding system.
"The digestibility of the binder is at 95 percent, and the inclusion rate of binding gelling system is minimized,” he said. "This was designed to reduce binder and maximize the presence of intact ingredients. There are no synthetic preservatives or artificial colors in a new diet. Some of the diet-unique components are to help enhance the immune system of the fish and build up resistance against pathogens, improve quality of water and work as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent.”
The Retailer Relationship
With so much new product on the market, a consumer’s head could spin trying to figure out what’s best for their fish, so it’s important that a retailer’s aquatic sales force understands the nuances of each food and can explain the particulars.
Hikari’s regional sales team visits retailers on a regular schedule to help them educate their staff on the products it offers.
"We also try to put new products in the hands of retailers so they can have some first-hand experience using the product, which makes it much easier to recommend the product to their customers,” Clevers said. "We also offer a number of merchandising assistance programs, which allow retailers to get our new products in the hands of their customers so they can ‘see for themselves’ how their aquatic pets respond to the products.”
United Pet Group provides retailers with the tools and support to make their stores look good and enhance ease of shopping for their customers, said Kornblith.
"Through the regular monitoring of these systems, we have evolved and improved our foods line and the merchandising system components,” he said. "In addition, we’ve developed educational materials for retailers containing compelling research, ingredients information and competitive data supporting why Tetra is the nutrition leader.”
GloFish provides information about its products via its website and through its distribution partners (including United Pet Group, 5-D Tropical and Segrest Farms).
New Life International is currently working on upgrading its POP materials and promotional materials, which will have a greater focus on consumer education.
"We believe that an educated customer is our best consumer,” Tepoot said. "Spectrum puts a lot of thought and effort into our nutrition profile, and I think if fishkeepers are knowledgeable, they will come to the correct conclusions on what to buy.”
Industry Professional Site: Comments from non-industry professionals will be removed.