Solving the mysteries of pet food production

The pet industry is big business. There are over eight million pet cats and dogs in Canada and more than 160 million pets in the US.  Last year, Americans spent over US$45 billion on their pets, including US$18 billion on pet food.

What happens when pet food harms more than it helps?

Some pet foods have been found to be tainted with melamine (commonly used in clear resins and durable plastics) as well other toxins and allergens—some of which may be created during pet food processing.

How can you keep Spot safe?

Enter Larial Proteomics.

Larial, a MaRS Incubator tenant and MaRS client, is one of the few companies in the world that tests food and beverages throughout the production process for changes in proteins. “We’re a troubleshooting company. We put together the right technologies to solve problems,” says Dr. Jeffrey Charuk, Larial’s chief scientist. And luckily for pets around the world, Larial is setting out to solve some of the mysteries involved in pet food production.

Larial just landed a contract with ECOstyle Animal Care BV, a Netherlands-based pet food and biological products company, to do methods development work for better quality assurance and control of pet food. “There’s more to pet food than just taste,” says Charuk.  “Forward-thinking companies like ECOstyle Animal Care BV are accessing advanced analytical technologies to evaluate whether changes in the quality or content of proteins in food products occur during the manufacturing process”.

The fact that ECOstyle Animal Care BV chose a Canadian company to test its pet food speaks to Larial’s global reputation for reproducibility, good documentation and results-oriented experiments. “It appears there may be few firms in Europe using advanced analytical technologies to explore the food chemistries that lead to cost-effective tests,” adds Charuk.

How does a Canadian company become the go-to guy in a multi-billion dollar industry?


In 2008, Larial targeted less traditional clients in the food and beverage industry by promoting its bioanalytical services through the purchase of  Google ads.  “We reconstructed our website so that landing pages were better associated with key words like protein expression, purification and analysis.  This led to a 238% increase in visits to and several new customers in a variety of industries,” says Charuk. “An unexpected interest in our services came from zoos, which have clinical labs that must contend with a wide diversity of animal health issues.”

Larial also worked with business development partners like TSV Consulting and Alba Biologics to spread the word about the company’s one-of-a-kind offerings. That’s how the contract with ECOstyle Animal Care BV came to be. “We have some specific areas where we’ve developed expertise, so those organizations targeted our promotion to reflect those areas,” says Charuk.

Larial’s business development activities build on the company’s nine years of experience in the separation and analytical sciences areas. Charuk left a faculty position in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto to start Larial Proteomics. “I was frustrated by the limited opportunities in academia to develop new technologies,” he says. “There was never sufficient grant funding to maintain laboratory instrumentation or train young scientists. It occurred to me that industry might be a better way to go.”

Larial offers Charuk and its other staff scientists the chance to present the facts – and just the facts – with data travelling directly from its analytical instruments to the client as it is generated. That’s how clients like ECOstyle Animal Care BV in the Netherlands like to do business and that’s how Larial will help keep pets all over the world healthier and happier.

Vanessa Caldwell

Vanessa is a writer at MaRS. She writes all kinds of things, like posts for the MaRS blog, articles for Convergence (the MaRS magazine) and the weekly MaRS eNewsletters. See more…