The London branch of market research firm Frost & Sullivan released a report in mid-July noting increasing consumer awareness – and purchasing – of omega-3 oils. The release came in the middle of the Institute of Food Technologists' Food Expo in the United States, which saw a flurry of activity among vendors announcing omega-3 ingredient products.
"The flood of scientific evidence on omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid/docosahexaenoic acid (EPA/DHA) has significantly buoyed the credibility of polyunsaturated fatty acids as vital functional ingredients," Frost & Sullivan said in the report "Strategic Analysis of the European Marine and Algae Oil Omega-3 Ingredients Market." "Heightened consumer awareness has had a telling effect on the healthy growth charts of the marine and algae oil omega-3 ingredients market."
Frost figured the European market for the healthy oils at $323 million in 2008 and estimates this to reach $525.6 million in 2013.
While that's the European market, the general trajectory of the U.S. and Canadian market appears similar. Since 2004, the U.S. FDA has allowed a qualified health claim connecting foods that contain EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids with reduced risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, in this month's Rollout new product section we note a new General Mills cereal: Total Plus Omega-3s.
"Manufacturers who recognize the link between consumer awareness and product marketability are branding their ingredients on consumer food and beverage products," the Frost & Sullivan report continued. "Meanwhile, the Global Organization of EPA & DHA Omega-3, an industry organization, has funded Purdue University in the U.S to establish the Omega-3 Learning Consortium for Health and Medicine to provide credible information about omega-3 fatty acids to consumers, health professionals and the media."
There were plenty of examples of new omega-3 products at July's IFT Food Expo.
"Currently, there is a gap between the recommended and actual intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids," Ratna Mukherjea, clinical science group lead at Solae LLC, said in a press conference at the show. "Despite this, consumer demand for omega-3s is growing as research continues to show that diets rich in omega-3s play an important role in maintaining health, specifically heart health."
Solae at the show unveiled its Soymega SDA soybean oil, the first soybean-based source of omega-3 oils. The result of a three-year collaboration between Solae and Monsanto Co., the SDA (stearidonic acid) converts to the desired omega-3 EPA in the body -- more efficiently than ALA (alpha linolenic acid), another plant-based omega-3, Solae officials claim. And it doesn't have the taste of some fish-oil based sources.
"Food companies have been evaluating this oil, and we are pleased with the positive feedback we've received," said Al Gallegos, Solae's marketing and business development director for omega-3.
Soymega has been shown to work in bakery products, soups, sauces, beverages, snack bars, dressings and yogurts. Recently, the company developed product concepts using industrial margarines and shortening in a range of baked products. While samples are available, production quantities will not be available until 2012 – about the same time as expected FDA approvals. The ingredient is genetically modified.
Playing both sides of the fish vs. plant debate is Glanbia Nutritionals. When the Ireland-based dairy company acquired Canada's Pizzey's Milling, it also got a collaboration between Pizzey's and Omega Protein Inc.. At the IFT Expo, Glanbia promoted UltraGrad, a blend of Pizzey's MeadowPure flax with Omega Protein's OmegaPure fish oil. The resulting free-flowing, dry ingredient delivers all four types of omega-3 fatty acids. (ALA, EPA, DHA and DPA) "without compromising the taste of your finished product."
Glanbia also puts omega-3s, via flax, into its OptiSol 5000, a functional ingredient with hydrocolloid properties that can be used to replace fats, gums and glutens, and into its SelectGrad whole milled flaxseed.
Omega Protein's source is menhaden fish oil. In addition to being a food ingredient supplier, Omega Protein just launched Simply OmegaPure as a consumer/retail line.
Cargill introduced Clear Valley Omega-3 Oil, a revolutionary new canola/flax seed oil blend. Taste-neutral, it is shelf stable for more than nine months, making it ideal for cookies, cereal bars, crackers, snacks and spreads. Existing recipes and formulas need not be modified, since Clear Valley Omega-3 Oil can replace other oils in formulation.
Cargill recently completed a GRAS self-determination for the ingredient, which allows food manufacturers to make a good or excellent source of ALA omega-3 nutrient content claim on food packages. Patent pending, the oil contains up to 30 percent of ALA omega-3 and provides a minimum of 160mg of ALA in most applications.
Hormel Foods' Specialty Products Division rolled out Eterna Omegasource, an omega-3 EPA/DHA and vitamin D combination ingredient for shelf-stable beverage applications. Allergen free, GMO free, GRAS affirmed and Kosher, it contains efficacious doses of omegas, and can be customized for applications.