By definition, phytogenics, also known as botanicals in the US, are a group feed additives derived from herbs, spices, or other plants.
The group includes:
Plants contain an abundance of chemicals that enable them to resist attacks by microorganisms and insects. These ‘secondary compounds’ or ‘phytochemicals’ can potentially have useful growth-promoting and health.
Since the Neanderthal period, humans have used medicinal plants (along with magic and religious rituals) to treat their diseases, and presumably, those of their animals. In Western countries, the use of medicinal plants began to decrease in medical practice in the XIX century and was replaced by pharmaceuticals, but it reemerged in the 1960s as a response to increasing side effects of synthetic medicines.
Compounds derived from plants started to be used in commercial farming in the 1980s, especially in Central and Northern Europe, but their use was not widespread. At that time, the usage of natural compounds was already quite different from their historical use, because scientists called that traditional knowledge was validated, the results were reproducible and the treatments were safe and effective. This led to the production of standardized botanical extracts.
The market started growing in 2006, when the European Union banned antibiotic growth promoters, and the need for effective replacers led to increased research activities on the potential of phytogenics. Some countries and producers around the world followed some years later.
The global phytogenic feed additives market size was estimated to account for 618 million euros in 2020 and is forecasted to grow at 7.8% yearly this decade. The growth is mainly driven by the increasing global production of feed, the tightening restrictions on the use of antibiotics, and the rising consumer’s concerns regarding animal health and the quality of meat, eggs and milk.
The phytogenic market is not mature. It has a big room for growth and evolution in the coming decades: it is calculated that nowadays only around 5% of feed used worldwide includes phytogenics. The main reasons are that it’s a fairly new concept for many nutritionists and because only 58% of the countries have completely banned AGP. On the other hand, new applications for phytogenics are emerging and driving growth, such as reduction of ammonia emissions, respiratory health, improvement of meat quality, anticoccidials, etc.
The formulation and development of products based on phytogenics is a very complex process and requires a comprehensive knowledge of very different disciplines such as phytotherapy, phytochemistry, animal physiology, pathology, microbiology, analysis techniques, compounding and pharmaceutical technology:
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