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Omega-3s in Food and Beverage
Interest continues in marketing products based on an omega-3 health-claim platform. From 2009 to 2010, Innova Market Insights reported 5.1% global growth in the number of new products tracked featuring an omega-3 claim.
Notably, launches in functional foods have not yet risen dramatically. The traditional fish and seafood sector still accounted for 29.2% of launches. Oils were the second most popular application (5.8%) after baby meals (fruits and vegetables). Other categories featuring a significant number of omega-3 applications in 2010 were breakfast cereals (4.4%) and cereal and energy bars (4.7%), predominantly through the use of flaxseed. There was also a 71% growth in the number of baby formula/milk products featuring an omega-3 claim from 2009 to 2010.
The use of omega-3-docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular-in baby formula is back in the European spotlight. Despite serious pressure, at the beginning of April, the European Parliament narrowly approved a DHA health claim for baby food. Producers may claim that adding the fatty acid DHA to baby food “contributes to the normal visual developments of infants up to 12 months of age.”
The announcement is good news for DHA supplier Martek Biosciences Corp. (Columbia, MD), now part of DSM Nutritional Products (Parsippany, NJ). The company recently applied to the UK Food Standards Agency for approval to market algal oil produced from Schizochytrium microalgae as a novel food ingredient.
Martek has now developed a strain from another species of this microalgae that produces an oil rich in both DHA and omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The oil is known as DHA-O. The company intends to market DHA-O at similar use levels and in similar food categories to those currently approved for its DHA-rich oil. These food categories include food supplements, bakery products, and breakfast cereals. Approval for uses in biscuits (cookies) and cooking oils is also being sought.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA; Parma, Italy) recently approved an Article 14 disease-reduction claim from German baby products marketer HiPP GmbH & Co Vertrieb KG. The health claim related to alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and contribution to cognitive health.
The Panel concluded that a cause-and-effect relationship has been established, and the following wording reflects the scientific evidence: “Alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid, contributes to brain and nerve tissue development.”
Omega-3 has also been finding its way into new North American product applications (see table at left). Innova Market Insights reported high launch numbers not only for products in the cereal and bakery sector but also, interestingly, in the juice market. Innovative juice launches included Odwalla’s Fruit Juice Drink Blend: Berries GoMega flavor.
Notably, the savory snacks sector did not even rank in the top-15 market categories for omega-3.
In the nutrition bar market, the Belly-bar Boost S’more to Love nutrition bar, targeting pregnant women, claims to deliver “the essential iron, folic acid, calcium, protein, and omega-3 DHA that you and your baby need.”
Meanwhile, another beverage company getting creative with omega-3 is Renewal Laboratories in San Diego, CA. The company markets a line of health and wellness waters under the Go In brand. Recently, it expanded into the ready-to-drink tea sector with the introduction of the first all-natural bottled teas with omega-3 fatty acids.
In Canada, Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada), the supplier of MEG-3 brand omega-3 EPA/DHA ingredients, recently announced the launch of From Farm To Table, Canada’s new kettle corn with MEG-3 ingredients. Each 21-g serving provides 32 mg of omega-3 EPA/DHA, is free from GMOs and gluten, and has no trans fats or artificial flavors and colors.
Looking ahead, while omega-3 products with a strong functional positioning are still coming from a small base, positive European regulatory news indicates high upcoming new product potential, particularly in the baby food space.