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Yes, new omega-3 products are still rolling out globally.
Interest in the potential health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids continues to show, with new product activity in the food and drinks market. Evidence of multiple health benefits, encompassing areas such as cardiovascular, circulatory, nervous system, joint, cognitive, and eye health is resulting in growing awareness of the need to maintain or even increase dietary omega-3 fatty acid levels. This has led the food and drinks industry to increasingly market products on their omega-3 fatty acid content, as well as raise the omega-3 levels in other products via reformulation.
The number of new food and drink products marketed as containing omega-3 fatty acids has risen significantly in recent years, according to Innova Market Insights’ research. It has nearly tripled over the 2007–2012 period, rising from 1.3% of total food and drink launches recorded globally in 2011 to 1.6% in 2012, with a further rise to 1.7% evident for the 12-month period ending June 2013. There is strong regional variation, however.
North America, in particular, is showing high levels of interest, with nearly 3% of new launches carrying omega-3 claims of some kind. This likely reflects the unique regulatory environment where qualified claims about reduced risks of heart disease are allowed on pack and in promotional material.
The category where omega-3 claims are most popular is baby foods. One-fifth of new baby food launches carry this type of claim, ahead of pet foods with 16% and fish with 13%. The three categories account for over 60% of all new introductions marketed on their omega 3 content.
Despite much lower penetration levels, other markets are developing omega-3 interest. Within the dairy sector, omega-3 milks are increasing their presence and moving into more specialized areas, with launches such as Horizon’s DHA Omega-3 Organic milk in the United States, which this year took the omega-3 category into single-serve products for the first time. Also in the United States, milks high in omega-3s were introduced into the children’s market by Smart Balance in the autumn of 2012 with its launch of Transitions Whole Milk for toddlers, and Kids Reduced Fat Milk and Chocolate Low Fat Milk for children. The three products contain calcium and added vitamin D for bone health, and DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids to support brain and heart health.
Another interesting 2012 launch in the United States was Flax Seed Parmesan Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers, featuring aged parmesan cheese and flaxseed for a product high in protein, calcium, and omega-3s, yet free from gluten, sugar, and trans fats.
The omega-3 content of some plants, such as flaxseed and chia, has also led to increased popularity of omega-3 claims in the cereals market, but this remains relatively limited in comparison with other product sectors. Only about 4% of the global cereal launches recorded in the 12 months ending June 2013 used this type of claim. Recent launches using chia include the Qi’a range of cereals from Nature’s Path in the United States, marketed as a superfood breakfast cereal with chia, hemp, buckwheat, making for an excellent source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
The Chia Co. from the United States is planning to extend its Chia Pod breakfast range, featuring porridge-style products in single-serve pots, into the UK market. Although marketed as providing the recommended daily allowance of omega-3 and 25% of the daily dose of fiber, the pots are being marketed on a “fuller for longer” satiety platform. A Chia & Water spring water drink was also added to the U.S. soft drinks market by Ahhmigo earlier this year. It is marketed as rich in chia fiber, omega-3, and protein.
Outside of the United States, examples of interesting product activity featuring omega-3 fatty acids include Soy Plus Omega-3 cooking oil from Acesur in Spain; fresh soft cheese with omega-3 under the Puleva Omega-3 Burgos name, also in Spain; Sushi Twisters, Bites, and Rolls dog treats made with whiting fish and skin in the United Kingdom; and Simply Caesar Honey & Mustard and Balsamic & Honey rapeseed-oil-based dressings from Borderfields in the United Kingdom.
Perhaps most unusual of all 2013 launches was the appearance of Latte d’Asina (donkey milk) from Eurolactis in the mainstream ultra-high-temperature processing (UHT) milk market in Switzerland. The company claims its milk contains three times more omega-3 than standard milks.
Despite some recent adverse publicity about research linking higher levels of omega-3 intake with prostate cancer, it appears that the market is going from strength to strength. Rising consumer awareness of omega-3 health benefits, and the growing number of launches recorded by Innova Market Insights, indicate this may be set to continue, despite the difficulties of making claims about an ingredient with so many potential benefits-particularly in the light of increasing regulatory control of claims in regions such as the European Union.