Mars Petcare debuts insect-based cat food and packaging with less plastic

Image: Mars Petcare and Futerra

The new insect-based dry cat food is called Lovebug and has been developed through a collaboration between Mars and Futerra. Most of the protein in the food comes from insects, specifically Black Soldier Fly Larvae, replacing the traditional meat or fish element of cat food. The blend also contains soy protein, maize, wheat and beet pulp fibre. 

Mars claims that the use of insect protein is inherently more sustainable than most meat, as rearing livestock takes a lot of water and land and is typically a greenhouse-gas-intensive process. Compared to beef, the firm claims, farming insects takes around 80% less land space per kilogram of protein produced.

To further enhance the sustainability credentials of the product, Mars is sourcing bugs that are fed using 100% surplus and wasted food and farmed at a facility powered by 100% renewable electricity. It has also developed a plastic-free, recyclable bag. Mars has not revealed what the total carbon footprint of Lovebug is compared to its meat or fish-based cat food.

Mars and Futerra have worked with the Waltham Petcare Science Institute to ensure that the food is nutritionally complete for adult cats. It will be launching later this spring with an RRP of £12.99 for a kilogram bag.

“I love my cat and I love the planet, but I couldn’t find an environmentally conscious, super healthy and plastic-free cat food in the UK,” Futerra co-founder Solitaire Townsend said, explaining the rationale behind the product development.

“There are so many sustainable and healthy choices for people, why not cats?”

To Townsend’s point on food for human consumption, insect protein options have been added to the menu by businesses including Sainsbury’s and Selfridges in recent years. The global edible insect market is widely predicted to exceed $520m (£406m) by 2023, as more products launch in markets like Europe and the US. Insects are already popular sources of lean, low-cost, low-carbon protein in many Asian markets.

Packaging changes

The announcement of Lovebug comes shortly after Mars Petcare launched a string of new packaging formats on popular products, in a bid to help deliver its commitment to reach 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging and to reduce virgin plastic use by 25%. Both pledges have a 2025 deadline.

Packaging changes have affected Pedigree Schmackos dog treats, Dreamies cat treats and Royal Canin dry dog food bags.

The new design for Pedigree Schmackos sachets and cases uses 12% less plastic and 36% less paper than its predecessor. Mars Petcare expects to sell 20 million of the redesigned sachets in 2021, representing 23 tonnes of plastic saved and 60 tonnes of paper.

The Dreamies redesign, meanwhile, has reduced the among of plastic per sachet by 10%. Royal Canin dog food bags now weigh the same but are mono-material, making for easier recycling and wider kerbside collection potential across the UK and mainland Europe. Hahtamaki and SABIC are Mars Petcare’s packaging suppliers across the three lines.

“Our vision is a circular economy in which no packaging goes to waste,” Mars Petcare’s global vice president of sustainability Marika McCauley Sine said. “These pilots are important steps toward achieving our commitment.”

Other brands to have provided updates on their plastic packaging targets this month include Ocado and KP Snacks.

Sarah George

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