Omega-3 Brand Perspectives

November 8, 2013
Andreas Koch

With more forms and sources of omega fatty acids on the market, customers have more choices than ever before. Here’s why more options-and not fewer-are better for everyone.

Today’s consumers are clamoring for omega-3 nutrition, and it’s no wonder. By and large, science continues to prove just how essential these essential fatty acids are.

As consumers are bombarded with warnings about the consequences of the modern diet, one simple takeaway is that excess inflammation lies at the root of much that makes us ill. Consumers are learning about the need to shift their omega-6-to-omega-3 fatty acid intake ratio away from inflammatory omega-6s and back in favor of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Studies have shown omega-3s support everything from joint mobility and bone density to heart health, healthy cholesterol levels, blood glucose, energy and endurance, mental health, and visual acuity. Even mainstream doctors are taking off their “pharmaceutical goggles” and prescribing omega-3 nutrition as part of a healthy routine. The result? ConsumerLab.com and other industry data show that omega-3s have surpassed multivitamins as the most popular supplement in American homes.

But what are customers getting these days? After all, a spoonful of fish oil doesn’t quite make the medicine go down. Thankfully, omega-3 ingredient suppliers and omega-3 product manufacturers have found many ways to make ingesting various essential fatty acids palatable for everyone. In fact, I’d say, the reason the natural products industry has grown by leaps and bounds is because we’ve learned to actually listen to customers and innovate to their tastes.

With all the forms and sources of omega fatty acids in today’s market, you might wonder, though-are we offering consumers too many options? The concept is called “paralysis by analysis.” That is, are we giving shoppers so many choices that they fail to feel confident in any one decision and postpone the purchase altogether?

Stacking Up Forms, Sources

Before we get to paralysis by analysis, first let’s talk about how these sources and forms compare.

Today, consumers obviously have many omega-3 fatty acid choices. Fish oil, cod liver oil, salmon oil, krill oil, flaxseed, and chia seed oil…the list goes on. At Barlean’s, we believe that each omega-3 source offers its own unique benefits, with studies supporting the health benefits of each. And, because of this range on the market today, customers are more likely to find one or many that work for them-whether customers are young or old, male or female, vegan or vegetarian.

The range of omega-3 forms on the market today continues to keep this category the most talked-about in the media concerning health and wellness. Most health food stores offer capsules for traditionalists, sweet emulsified bottled liquids, gummies, powder mixes, and even omega-3–enriched ingredients in various groceries like breads, milk, and cookies. Today’s manufacturers are constantly on their toes trying to fill each niche and satisfy each and every lifestyle.

Confusing Consumers

But are we confusing consumers with too many choices? Are the average consumers able to choose between a bottle of krill oil capsules and a bottle of flaxseed liquid? Can they figure out which is right for them? And moreover, on the manufacturer and retailer’s side, can introducing too many new products actually cannibalize sales of existing products?

There are, of course, drawbacks to flooding the market with too many versions of essentially the same product. Retailers should just focus on the brands with strongest customer appeal. Natural selection means the strongest brands generally remain on the market over time, while the weakest drop off.

So, yes, there needs to be balance when it comes to offering variety. The choices should be meaningful. For instance, expanding consumers’ options through more omega-3 sources and forms simply means that you can address the needs of more shoppers. As a brand that continues to innovate and offer a broad range of sources and forms of omega products-including many non-conventional but very successful delivery formats-we certainly believe that retailers should retain a variety of essential fatty acid source types.

Why is it that when we introduce a new type of omega-3 product, such as a new omega-3 source like krill oil, we don’t find sales of our existing omega-3 products, such as fish and flax oil, fall off? It’s because, we believe, we are capturing new omega-3 customers-customers who weren’t necessarily using omega-3 products before finally finding one right for them. More offerings means we can reach more clientele.

The most important thing to remember for brands offering numerous omega-3 products is to always guide the customer’s buying experience. Consumer education, such as offering an array of omega-3 literature, is key in order to connect the right product to the right consumer’s lifestyle.

Potential for More

More options for customers will continue to expand the essential fatty acids category. In fact, the latest trend is omega-3 blends, that include added ingredients to promote targeted health conditions. Is this category overkill? Not at all. As lifestyles become busier, blended products offer convenience. If a customer can narrow down his or her preferred essential fatty acid source, and combine it with ingredients that address a specific condition of concern, he or she can effectively streamline the daily supplements regimen, not to mention save on cost.

The takeaway here is that if a product has consumer appeal, there will be demand. And the omega-3 category is creating demand as we go.

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