Vancouver-based R&D firm Burcon NutraScience Corporation has announced that it has submitted an application for a US patent on the use of canola protein isolate as a pet food and animal feed ingredient.

"Proteins are the highest-value ingredient in pet food. It's a big market and canola meal has a long and successful history as an animal feed," said Johann Tergesen, President and COO of Burcon.

"Pet food will allow Puratein(TM) a much quicker route to market, and is another example of how we can add to Burcon's value by patenting commercial applications using our new plant proteins."

In 2001, the pet food market in the US and western Europe had revenues of over US$21bn, and is growing by more than US$1bn annually. Pet foods contain a variety of components, with protein ingredients typically accounting for about 25%-30% of the product.

NPD is one of the key drivers as pet food moves up-market and increasingly reflects trends in the human food industry, including consolidation of manufacturing between a handful of key players, and strong demand trends for plant-based proteins.

Canola protein isolate has shown high digestible, and canola meal is globally recognized for its nutritional qualities, with a Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) exceeding that of soy and other plant proteins.

Three of the five foremost pet food companies in the US are subsidiaries of major multinational food and consumer product companies. These include Nestlé, with such brands as Alpo, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Dog Chow and Purina One; Heinz, with its 9 Lives, Gravy Train and Kibbles-n-Bits brands; and Colgate-Palmolive's Hill's Science Diet Pet Food.

Other leading companies include Procter & Gamble, with Eukanuba and Iams, and Mars' brands Kal Kan, Mealtime and Pedigree.