Better Bites for Pets and Aquaculture Animals

Improving the Texture of Animal Food Using Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG) & Rice Starch

Pets are a key part of many people’s lives around the world. Globally, pet food market sales stood at USD 115.50 billion in 2022 and is expected to climb to USD 163.70 billion by 2029 as a result of new innovative products9. Owing to pet humanization and the growing bond between pet owners and their pets, consumers are willing to spend more on pet food. For that reason, it has sparked a robust demand for a wider variety of high-quality pet food products and a taste for new experiences13.

The aquafeed market is also seen as active and dynamic due to the increasing seafood demand. Approximately, 50% of all fish consumed by humans comes from aquaculture14 and according to Fortune Business Insights report, the global aquafeed market was valued at $58.19 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $85.17 billion in 20288.

Optimizing the Technological Quality of Pet Food

Pet foods or treats are generally available in three forms: moist, semi-moist, and dry, depending on their final moisture content15. Whether it is pureed, shredded, cubed, cut, jellied, gravied, chewy, soft, crunchy, hard, or otherwise, final product texture is paramount18.

Vital Wheat Gluten: An Excellent Texturizer for Pet Food

Vital Wheat Gluten (VWG) consists of naturally occurring protein gliadins, which are responsible for viscosity, and glutenin, giving elasticity to pet food products16. Thanks to this strong bind, they both form a strong viscoelastic matrix with a high-water absorption bind that gives them a texture similar to the meat3,16. VWG also can improve juiciness due to its excellent water-holding capacity which becomes a crucial part of the palatability in all chunks-in-gravy type pet foods3.

Technical Benefits of VWG in Pet Food6

  • High water absorption capacity thanks to good binding capacity (strong viscoelastic matrix)
  • Increased juiciness and chewiness (texture) in (semi-)moist (e.g., chunks in gravy) pet nutrition
  • Improved chunkiness
  • Lighter, crunchier kibble in consequence of optimal porosity, volume, stability, and texture in dry extruded pet nutrition

Rice Starch: A Clean Label Solution for Sensitive Pets

Rice starch can optimize extruded pet snacks and treats especially in dry pet food. With its high hot set temperature, it improves the porosity and uniform surface, allowing for a good level of crispiness and crunchiness in the final product3. Therefore, it is ideal to be used in products that are aimed at young or sensitive pets and in hypoallergenic pet foods4.

Technical Benefits of Rice Starch in Pet Food6

  • High-quality binder for controlled expansion in dry extruded pet nutrition
  • Uniform kibble with fine porosity, improved crunchiness, and smoother surface
  • Low retrogradation in wet canned pet foods (natural stabilizer)
  • Good moisture binder (e.g., cohesive gravy matrix)
  • Clean label alternative to hydrocolloids in wet pet nutrition

Optimizing the Technological Quality of Aquafeed

Aquafeed pellets are commonly used to feed aquaculture animals where the extrusion process becomes the primary technique for a better feed quality11. Other than that, in order to gain a maximum yield of fish, the feed also requires an appropriate ingredient and processing technique17. This in turn will determine the qualities of feed such as pellet shape, size, water absorption quality, density, softness or stability, and floating time10.

Vital Wheat Gluten: An Optimal Binder for Aquafeed

Vital wheat gluten (VWG), a natural protein extracted from wheat is a water-insoluble protein characterized by visco-elasticity properties when hydrated16. It offers perfect properties to provide the binding needed for the pellet in an extruded feed1. Moreover, due to its water insolubility properties, it can reduce the breakdown of the feed pellet in water14. VWG also improves the water stability of the extruded pellet and absorbs more water which leads to increasing feed efficiency and reducing water wastage12.

Technical Benefits of VWG In Aquafeed5

  • High-quality, natural binder
  • High water absorption capacity and prevention of gas expulsion during extrusion
  • Improved water stability of the extrudate
  • Delivery of fine porous and uniform extrudates
  • Higher oil inclusions

Rice Starch: An Extrusion Enhancer

Poor or insufficient water stability can break the feed fast. Thus, the use of appropriate binding agents is what mostly determines the stability of aquafeed pellets10. Rice starch has an important feature of gelatinization and non-crystallization which act like a binder and increase the durability of pellets17. In the extrusion process, upon exiting an extruder, the feed undergoes a sudden drop in pressure causing rapid moisture loss and volume expansion. As a result, it creates a smooth and uniform porous texture of the pellet7,11 and allows it to absorb oil, meeting the fish’s nutritional requirements, and achieve the optimum pellet buoyancy2.

Technical Benefits of Rice Starch in Aquafeed5

  • High-quality vegetal binder
  • Reduced expansion rate to improve sinking and buoyancy
  • Uniform and smoother extrudates with a fine porosity
  • Enabling higher oil inclusions (achieving nutritional requirements)

The Right Balance

When formulating pet or aquafeed products, it is important to choose the right ingredients to achieve ta good balance between the final product’s integrity and texture. At DPO International, we are honored to be in partnership with Beneo to bring you a range of ingredient choices that will elevate the quality of your animal nutrition product.


1Apper-Bossard, E., Feneuil, A., Wagner, A., & Respondek, F. (2013). Use of vital wheat gluten in aquaculture feeds. Aquatic Biosystems, 9(1), 21.

2Beneo. (2016) . Matching today’s expectations. Natural ingredients for sustainable aquafeed. Retrieved from

3Beneo. (2018). Matching today’s expectations. Natural ingredients for healthy pets. Retrieved from

4Beneo. (2021). BENEO Factsheet Rice Starch in Pet Food V1. Retrieved from

5Beneo. (2022a). Natural ingredients for improved processing in aqua feed. Retrieved from

6Beneo. (2022b). Natural pet food ingredients for improved processing. Retrieved from

7Bettelli, M. A., Capezza, A. J., Nilsson, F., Johansson, E., Olsson, R. T., & Hedenqvist, M. S. (2022). Sustainable wheat protein biofoams: Dry upscalable extrusion at low temperature. Biomacromolecules

8Fortune Business Insights. (2022a). Aquafeed Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By Type, Ingredient, Form (Dry and Wet), and Regional Forecast, 2021-2028. Industry Report.

9Fortune Business Insights. (2022b). Pet Food Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis, By Animal Type, Form, Source, Distribution Channel, And Regional Forecast, 2022-2029. Industry Report.

10Karim, A., Naila, B., Khwaja, S., Hussain, S. I., & Ghafar, M. (2021). Evaluation of different starch binders on physical quality of fish feed pellets. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 84.

11Liu, K., Frost, J., Welker, T. L., & Barrows, F. T. (2021). Comparison of new and conventional processing methods for their effects on physical properties of fish feed. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 273, 114818.

12Lu, B. (2016, February 15). Evaluation of vital wheat gluten as a source of protein in extruded diets for juvenile giant croaker (Nibea japonica): Feed technological properties and biological responses. Brage NMBU. Retrieved December 16, 2022, from

13Mordor Intelligence. (2022). Pet Food Market – Growth, Trends, Covid-19 Impact, And Forecasts (2022 – 2027). Industry Report.

14Royal Ingredients Group. (2021). Animal Nutrition. Retrieved from .

15Samant, S. S., Crandall, P. G., Jarma Arroyo, S. E., & Seo, H.-S. (2021). Dry Pet Food Flavor Enhancers and Their Impact on Palatability: A Review. Foods Journal, 10, 2599. 

16Schopf, M., & Scherf, K. A. (2021). Water Absorption Capacity Determines the Functionality of Vital Gluten Related to Specific Bread Volume. Foods, 10, 228. 

17Tiamiyu, L. O. & Solomon, S. G. (2012). Effects of different grain starches as feed binders for on-farm aqua-feeds. Global Journal of Pure and Applied Sciences, 18 (1), 19-23.

18Tyler, J. (2021). Understanding texture and how to formulate pet food, treats for success. Pet Food Processing. Retrieved from