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.
Eterna Omegasource is available in oil or value-added emulsions, which are cold water-soluble and do not require additional thickening agents. As with omega-3 EPA/DHA, vitamin D stability is an issue, especially when exposed to light. So Hormel uses proprietary technologies to stabilize and protect the ingredients, allowing for easier emulsion in water-based drinks such as sports drinks, energy drinks, smoothies and fruit juices.
Cognis USA offers the Omevital Omega-3 portfolio of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be used in both functional foods and dietary supplements to deliver DHA and EPA. Available in oil and encapsulated powder for formulation ease, Omevital Omega-3 is sourced from sustainable biomarine species in Norway, ultra-refined in accordance with Pharma GMP standards, is Kosher certified and contains up to 60 percent combined EPA/DHA long chain fatty acids in ethyl ester and triglyceride forms.
Not all omega oils end in a 3, Dow AgroSciences reminds us. The Indianapolis-based Dow unit promoted its Omega-9 Oils to address the need for healthier ingredients in baked goods, snacks and packaged foods. Derived from the same Omega-9 Canola Oil used by the foodservice industry, Dow AgroSciences offers customized oil, spray oil, and shortening applications for the packaged goods industry. Ideal for food manufacturers looking to eliminate trans fat and reduce saturated fat, these solutions can improve nutrition labels and achieve these statements: zero trans fat, Low (or significant reduction in) saturated fat, or High heart-healthy monounsaturated (omega-9) fat. Omega-9 Oils Ingredient Solutions, such as Omega-9 shortening, maintain the functional qualities such as flavour, shelf life, texture and mouthfeel. And because the shortening is naturally stable, it can provide equal or longer shelf life to products containing traditional, high saturated fat shortenings. All this without the use of antioxidants.
Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. acquired exclusive global marketing and distribution rights (in the omega-3 space) to GAT Food Essentials' omega-3 microencapsulation-emulsion technology, including GAT's patented "wowCAPS" technology. Ocean Nutrition also gets GAT's existing, global omega-3 customer base, which includes companies in North and South America, Australia and Europe. GAT had more than 40 applications from milk to baby food, from cooking oil to peanut butter and from bread to cookies.
While most vendors focused on EPA and omega oil's link to heart health, Martek Biosciences Corp. focused on DHA and its connection to memory and mental skills. Martek sponsored a study, reported in a recent edition of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, that showed that healthy adults 55 years of age taking 900mg of DHA derived from algae demonstrated enhanced memory and learning skills compared to those taking a placebo. Martek's Life'sDHA comes from algae.