The Ingredients Kitchen

Our obsession with the world’s finest pet food and the world’s finest ingredients has led us to invest more than £80 million to build a state-of-the-art Ingredients Kitchen that tests, processes and stores all of these fantastic ingredients and finished products.

This investment will guarantee that partners can have complete confidence in the provenance and traceability of all recipes that are produced at GA.

As we currently work with more than 700 ingredients and more than 800 different formulas, the challenge has been to automate a very complex system. In true GA style, this has resulted in significant investment and the collaboration of many organisations from around the world to provide a cutting edge solution for all of our partner brands.

We also have automated guided vehicles (AGV’s) to assist in moving ingredients and foods on site. Three software companies have been involved in automating the entire plant, with a vision to exclude any human error.

In addition, part of the ambitious expansion will result in a new dark store/warehouse, which will operate solely with robots.

Our Investment. Your Future.

Roger Bracewell

Chairman’s Comment on the Ingredients Kitchen

We are thrilled to present this fantastic investment from GA, brought together by the ingenuity, desire and dedication of various skilled organisations from around the world.

The Ingredients Kitchen has two separate functions designed and built to benefit every single one of our valued partners. Firstly, it allows for the testing and quarantine of 367 dry raw ingredients that are stored and dosed separately into 1.5-tonne batches. These are then ground and held ready for extrusion to avoid any potential delay.

Secondly, the storage of the 758 different extruded kibble varieties in 15,000 individual boxes within the Larder, containing approximately 600kg of complete product, so it can be tested prior to packing and then packed in one of the 7,000 different bags ready to meet the needs of our Partners.

The whole process allows us to track and trace every ingredient into each bag sold to the end consumer and to be able to guarantee it is safe, having monitored every step.

How does it work?

Bulk Intake

At the heart of creating exceptional pet food are careful ingredient selection and rigorous testing. More than 600 ingredients produced by over 130 suppliers are carefully selected for use in the Ingredients Kitchen. Every single ingredient used in our recipes must meet our stringent tests before acceptance. GA’s automated sampling and testing capabilities set the standard worldwide.

Barley, wheat and rice are delivered along with other bulk ingredients, either loose or in tote bags, to the bulk delivery area. The bulk ingredients on delivery pass through two magnets to detect and extract any metal which may be present in the material.

Automated sampling happens at this point. This efficient system calculates the intake time of every delivery in order to collect random samples from the start to the end of intake, ensuring consistent testing of the whole intake. Samples are collected, labelled and delivered to the laboratory for testing; results are typically available within 48 hours.

Once passed, they enter one of our ninety Quarantine silos; each silo can hold 80 tonnes of bulk ingredients. Ingredients remain in quarantine until they have passed our meticulous laboratory testing. Only then can the ingredients be transferred via a track system, to storage above the Ballroom, in preparation for dosing as required by a manufacturing order.

The Ballroom

The Ballroom is where all the ingredients from the three different weighing methods are brought together and combined in a Batch Container (BC). The bulk dosing bins enter, the ingredients from the Automated Weighers are tipped in, and the ingredients are finally added together in the operator tipping room. Up to 3 manufacturing orders can take place at the same time.

Once dosed, the BC is taken up several levels, mixed and put through a grinder. A sieve ensures that any material which is too fine will bypass the grinder. Once ground, the material is dropped back into the original BC, which has now been returned to the Ballroom level.

Some materials are not suitable for grinding, so they can be dosed after the other materials have been ground. These materials are dosed into green boxes, which are then added to the BC mix separately at Pre-extrusion, i.e. just before entering the extruder.

Hand Ingredients

The Pick and Mix system has been designed to allow for the creation of 22,500 pick and mix boxes per year at the maximum output capacity of 120,000 tonnes per year. This equates to 62 boxes per day. Our buyers select from more than 130 trusted suppliers from over 50 countries worldwide, providing our Partners and GA with over 600 different ingredients as diverse as frankincense, marigold, aniseed, cinnamon, papaya, and dried insects to create outstanding and unique recipes.

Our new Pick & Mix facilities in the Ingredients Kitchen provides GA with dosing precision and the ability to dose difficult-to-handle or delicate materials. Small or Micro-Ingredients can be dosed reliably by hand where the machine dosing cannot work to the precise tolerances and reliability that our standards demand. Materials that are not conducive to automated dosing can be appropriately handled and dosed.

The Kardex system removes the opportunity of operator error by monitoring the location of every blue box and controlling which box is presented to the operator. The RFID system used at the tipping stations combined with our Genesis system ensures operator accuracy the first time, every time.

Ingredients Intake

We have developed our own proprietary IT software called Genesis to monitor, manage and control every part of the Ingredients Kitchen. Using RFID tagging and continuous sampling provides absolute reassurance for Partners and the very highest quality for pets.

On delivery to the Ingredients Kitchen, identification labels are printed and attached to every pallet and tote to avoid unloaded materials being confused before sampling and registration of the stock. The raw ingredients are registered and sampled before being stored in the Quarantine area until laboratory testing has been undertaken. Each ingredient has a pre-set sampling policy, determining how it should be sampled and what tests should be conducted. Laboratory technicians conduct sampling as instructed by our purpose-built software system called Genesis.

After materials have been successfully tested, the Genesis system will sequence the movement (via FLT) of delivered materials to one of the three pallet and tote intake pits. Each pallet or tote delivered to an intake pit has its barcode scanned so that Genesis knows that a new ingredient has arrived and is ready to be tipped.

The Pantry

With 5,756 Red Box Containers holding up to 900kg of ingredients each, the Pantry has the capacity to hold over 5 million kilograms. Efficiency and traceability in motion, the Pantry is made up of 36 bays across six aisles, on eight levels, with two sides, two deep.

Using the RFID system and Control Room operation, the Pantry provides full traceability and optimum ingredient freshness. Henry, one of GA’s Automated Guided Vehicles, transfers approved ingredients inside red containers from the intake pits to the Pantry shuttle system. Then, one of several automated cranes places the tagged containers into appropriate locations in the Pantry warehouse.

The Pantry is run using our Integrated Warehouse Management System (IWS), which monitors where different containers are and their status in real-time. The IWS uses the RFID tag to enable operators to track the contents of each container or identify when a container is empty or requires cleaning. Ingredients are stored in three different zones according to their usage to optimise efficiency. The most frequently-used materials are stored in Zone A, which has the shortest travel time for the crane.


GA’s core value of Quality is of paramount importance in all functions of the business, and none more so than the onsite laboratory. As a science-led manufacturer, our technicians perform around 1,166 tests per week, including micro-testing, ash, fibre, oil, moisture and protein testing on all raw and finished products. Our quality and food safety laboratory is designed to be cross-functional across nutritional and regulatory compliance, authenticity and micro profiling, safety, sensory and innovation.

Our expert team deliver peace of mind for you and your brands, providing unrivalled claims and food quality. Investments in the latest technology mean we supply data on food integrity to ensure all goods in and out meet the regulatory criteria.

Having the latest technology allow us to carry out many tests that we previously had to outsource to external labs. This allows GA tighter control over testing and also dramatically reduces testing timeframes for our many ingredients.

Equipped with the most advanced instruments and outstanding technicians, allowing rapid parameter assessments and generating objective data, means we can report MOP (Moisture, Oil and Protein testing) results in minutes instead of hours.

All ingredients at GA are subjected to numerous quality checks to ensure only the best ingredients are accepted for use in the products. Every ingredient has an individual tailor-made testing regime and specification in line with the attributes and vulnerabilities of the ingredients. Detailed risk assessments of each ingredient have been determined prior to purchase. This unique system ensures the full traceability of every product.

The Lab team coordinate testing with a defined process. Every new sample is assigned a unique barcode, which is printed onto a label and fixed to the sample container. The sample is scanned and left at the Raw Material drop off point within Laboratory 1 before being transferred to Laboratory 2, where all raw ingredient samples are scanned at the NIR test machine. Microbiological testing for Salmonella and Enterobacteriaceae is then undertaken.

The raw ingredients are then scanned onto Genesis to determine what wet chemistry testing is required. Wet chemistry testing includes MOPFA (Moisture, Oil, Protein, Fibre, Ash), and we now have the capabilities to turn this around within 48 hours. The laboratory works closely with both the Raw Materials and Quality Control departments, who will release the finished products that have been approved via our stringent testing protocols.

The Larder

The Larder, capable of holding between 9.8 to 12 million kilograms of pet food, is fully controlled, with up-to-the-minute information on Partner stock. The blue containers (known at GA as BFC’s – Blue Finished Containers) are transferred to the warehouse cranes for storage via a Shuttle Transfer Vehicle. These vehicles move on tracks, like a train, moving in a continuous loop, collecting BFCs from the Parlour and delivering them to the Larder.

The Larder can hold 14,864 boxes, each containing 650 – 800kg of pet food ready for packing. The highly responsive and controlled environment can handle around 78 box movements per hour.

What is an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV)?

GA Pet Food Partners use two types of Automated Guided Vehicles (known as AGV’s) within the interior of the Ingredients Kitchen, named Henry and Arthur. Designed and engineered for GA by an American technology company, Henry and Arthur are reliable and productive additions to the GA team.

Henry is the fastest, travelling at 2 m/s (metres per second) and weighing in at 1.5 tonnes. Arthur is considerably heavier at 2.5 tonnes and is understandably slightly slower, covering 1.8 m/s.

Both are guided by laser strips installed to navigate them along their route, and the Control Room fully monitors them via Genesis.

Henry’s role is to transfer Red Containers to and from the Pantry, whilst Arthur is kept busy looking after the Batch Containers, moving them between the cellar and the Station in preparation for Extrusion.

When Henry and Arthur are ready to recharge their batteries, they move into a ‘keep-alive’ zone to maintain power whilst another vehicle replaces their battery with a fully charged one.

Camels and Mules (Europe’s first Outdoor AGV’s)

GA’s Camel and Mules are Europe’s first outdoor automated guided vehicles (AGV). Designed similar to a small van or truck, they use magnetic gyro systems for navigation. Designed and built in America, they both travel up to 1 metre per second.

We built a road specifically for the Camel and Mules, with barriers and traffic lights enabling two-way traffic and three crossing paths for other site traffic. The road also has heat pads to ensure it is kept frost, ice and snow-free, providing a non-slip environment all year round.

After Arthur (one of our other AGV’s) has followed its dedicated pathway around the far side of the Pantry and completed its journey at a conveyor in the Station Area, the Batch Containers are loaded onto the Camel. The Camel can transport up to three Batch Containers to Pre-Extrusion in one journey.

When a recipe has been manufactured, it is placed into a blue container called a Blue Finished Container (BFC) and sent via an AGV shuttle called a Mule to the Parlour area in the Ingredients Kitchen building. The Mule can transfer four BFC’s in one journey.