MicroHarvest and VEGDOG collaborate on alt protein dog treat

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

VEGDOG cofounder Tessa Zaune-Figlar with new treat brand
VEGDOG cofounder Tessa Zaune-Figlar with new treat brand

Related tags pet food dog Protein

Biomass fermentation player, MicroHarvest, has teamed up with vegan pet food producer, VEGDOG, on a microbial protein-based treat for dogs.

The VEGDOG Pure Bites snack combines a bacterial protein from MicroHarvest with potato and apple pomace. The partners said the product’s hypoallergenic properties make it suitable for dogs that cannot tolerate conventional protein sources. It will be launced at Interzoo Europe in Nuremberg next week. 

Katelijne Bekers, cofounder and CEO of Germany based MicroHarvest, outlined how many pets have specific intolerances to meat types and that there is a market gap for tasty alternatives to animal-derived protein ingredients. 

The Pure Bites feature a completely new protein source, explained Carla Steffen, senior veterinary manager, VEGDOG. Consequently, a dog’s immune system would not have been exposed to this fermented protein before and that means even sensitive dogs and dogs with multiple allergies would benefit.

“VEGDOG has been an incredible R&D partner and has brought its expertise not only in manufacturing the treat, but also in understanding the veterinary appeal of the product," Bekers told FeedNavigator. 

VEGDOG Pure Bites and MicroHarvest Microbial Protein 1
New VEGDOG treat with MicroHarvest's microbial protein on display: “With ileal digestibility rates above 90%, our ingredient guarantees that a higher proportion of proteins and essential nutrients are assimilated into the dog’s system. This optimizes their health and well-being while reducing waste,” said Bekers.

VEGDOG was founded in 2016 by Tessa Zaune-Figlar and Valerie Henssen to provide vegan and gluten-free dog food developed in collaboration with specialist veterinarians.

MicroHarvest was established in 2021. The biotech makes an alternative protein by fermenting bacteria using feedstock derived from agricultural byproducts and drying it into a powder that can then be mixed with other ingredients. It claims its process can be completed in a matter of hours and that its product reduces land use by 99% and CO2 emissions by more than 70% relative to beef production. Pet food has been a focus application market for the startup from the onset. 

Consumer focus 

The German firm recently partnered with a Wageningen University master’s program to conduct the first acceptance study for microbial protein amongst dog owners in the UK and Germany, countries that represent two of the largest premium dog food and treats markets in Europe. The study surveyed 1,162 UK and German dog owners and found significant interest, with 77.2% of respondents willing to purchase dog treats containing microbial protein in their composition and 78.4% of the dog owners willing to buy complete dog food containing the protein.

The study included both qualitative interviews and a quantitative survey, said Bekers.

Palatability testing 

A subsequent palatability study with dogs conducted by MicroHarvest indicated a ten percentage points higher acceptance rate of microbial protein treats compared to those made exclusively with poultry.

“Our recent study yielded some fascinating insights. 93% of dogs ate the treats containing both microbial protein and poultry in less than 10 seconds, while 7% ate the treats containing only poultry in the same amount of time, highlighting the higher palatability of our microbial protein,” continued the CEO.

The trial was performed by a professional external partner with a test panel of 20 dogs, she reported.

Last November, MicroHarvest announced a partnership​ with a co-manufacturer, which has allowed it to reach commercial scale production, said Bekers. 

"Just three years after starting, we're witnessing our ingredient transition into a commercial reality, readily available to consumers," the cofounder exclaimed. "We're not just identifying the gap; we're also providing a solution and bringing it to market this year. It's an exhilarating development, particularly given the unprecedented speed for a biotechnology company innovating in the protein space."

Beyond pet food, in the animal nutrition space she sees opportunities to drive significant impact in aquaculture.

Related topics Suppliers

Related news

Show more