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High-concentrate launches take top billing, but firms are also exploring other ways to differentiate their omega-3 offerings.
U.S. omega-3 sales may not yet be back to the stellar growth levels seen during the category’s heyday, but there are definitely indications the market recovery is well underway. Sales are growing again, and the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED; Salt Lake City) recently released a report projecting 5% worldwide growth for the category through 2017.
Much of that growth is still propelled by innovation around high-concentrate omega-3s, according to omega-3 firms Nutritional Outlook spoke with at the SupplySide West trade show. But it’s also due to strong interest in novel and improved delivery systems, including emulsions and clean-label enteric coatings.
All About High Concentrates
As in years past, many of the omega-3 launches at SupplySide West this year focused on high-concentrate ingredients. Krill oil supplier Aker BioMarine (Oslo, Norway), for instance, showcased its new Superba Boost concentrate ingredient, which contains more than a 56% concentration of phospholipids, as opposed to the 40% phospholipid concentration found in typical krill oils.
Superba Boost was created with Aker BioMarine’s new processing technology, Flexitech, which allows the company to remove less desirable constituents like salt from the krill oil, leaving behind a higher ratio of lipids, choline, and omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. It’s the second ingredient to be produced with Aker BioMarine’s Flexitech technology, following Superba 2, which debuted earlier this year.
Nils Hoem, PhD, chief scientist at Aker BioMarine, described the development process used to create Superba Boost as one that makes the ingredient “more krill oil–like, if you will, because it is increasing or concentrating the essential ingredient in krill oil, which would be the phospholipids. Along with that, we’ll also have a parallel increase in the amount of EPA and DHA.” He added that Superba Boost is also better suited than other krill oil ingredients for formulation combinations with other ingredients, such as CoQ10, because the removal of unwanted minor constituents makes it easier to mix.
Neptune Health and Wellness (Laval, QC, Canada) also debuted a new high-concentrate krill oil at the show. Created with Neptune’s proprietary extraction process, the new NKO Omega Plus offers up to 30% more omega-3s than typical krill oil products. And while the krill oil ingredient may be especially attractive to a certain segment of consumers, it’s not aimed at any specific consumer group in particular, explained Jim Hamilton, president and CEO of Neptune. Rather, the new ingredient is meant to provide yet another page in Neptune’s omega-3 portfolio.
“It’s just another offering for our customers to help build a product that appeals to a differentiated consumer,” said Hamilton. “That for us is very important.”
On the fish oil side, the biggest share of the omega-3 innovation is “definitely” still around high concentrates, according to Steve Dillingham, global director of AlaskOmega Ingredients for Organic Technologies (Coshocton, OH). And while high-concentrate products tend to be more expensive than conventional omega-3 products, there remains a large, untapped base of potential consumers that makes the innovation well worth it, Dillingham explained.
“It’s still very much a pyramid in terms of consumption,” Dillingham said. “On the low end, the large, wide base is the population that’s still taking the lower concentrates or the no-concentrate oils. As you go up, obviously fewer people are taking the high concentrates. So we think there’s a lot of potential to move those consumers up.”
Biotechnology company Virun (Pomona, CA) is also focusing on high concentrate omega-3s. According to Philip Bromley, Virun’s CEO, Virun’s OmegaH20 technology now allows for emulsions of 6000 mg EPA/DHA to be packed into just 2 oz-the size of a 5-Hour Energy Shot-with shelf stability of more than 18 months.
However, while high-concentrate ingredients remain a primary driver of the omega-3 market recovery in the short-term, the focus may begin to move elsewhere at some point, suggested Ravi Annavarapu, global director of the seaweed, omega-3, and natural colors platform at FMC Health and Nutrition (Sandvika, Norway).
“As you go farther out there will be some limitation because you can only produce so many new products with higher concentrations,” Annavarapu said. “There’s always a cost trade-off as well, because as you go higher in concentration it becomes more expensive to get the same dosage. Longer term, the innovation will move to other kinds of areas, such as delivery forms or even functional foods.”
Annavarapu also noted that FMC’s Epax 4535 TGN triglyceride oil, which launched at last year’s SupplySide West and contains more than 80% EPA/DHA fatty acids, has continued to gain strong traction in the past year.
New Alginate-Based Enteric Coating
Speaking of new delivery systems, FMC unveiled a new enteric coating solution well-suited for omega-3 products at SupplySide West. Derived from brown seaweed, the new Aquateric N100 enteric coating is appropriate for every application a more conventional enteric coating might be used for-such as preventing fishy burps in marine-based omega-3 products-but with an enhanced clean-label appeal. Compared to conventional enteric-coating ingredients appearing on product labels today, such as ethyl cellulose, shellac, or ammonium hydroxide, Aquateric N100 could be labeled simply as alginate and starch. FMC says it’s also a less expensive option.
“The coating that we are launching is cheaper by 25% than the cheapest enteric coating solution out there,” Annavarapu explained, adding that the reduced cost may open up the possibility of using enteric coatings to a class of ingredients previously boxed out by the high cost.
What’s more, Aquateric N100 also allows for an easier formulation process as it is a one-phase coating system, rather than the two-phase systems characteristic of other enteric coatings. It also allows for clog-free coating and an easier clean-up process than other solutions, FMC explained.
While the omega-3 category is probably the biggest potential market for FMC’s new alginate-based coating solution, the technology could also be applied to probiotics, astaxanthin, and more, Annavarapu said.
Other Strategies to Differentiate Omega-3s
Also at SupplySide West, Bioriginal (Irvine, CA) debuted a new fish oil ingredient that may be appropriate for new delivery systems thanks to its lack of unpleasant sensory features. The new OmegaPure is both odorless and tasteless, making it appropriate for both foods and beverages-applications that can be challenging for marine-based omega-3s, Bioriginal noted.
“We see OmegaPure fish oil being used in a variety of product applications from condiments and bars to baked goods and beverages,” said Joe Vidal, president of Bioriginal, in a press release.
Meanwhile, PLT Health Solutions (Morristown, NJ) debuted its Ãlantria Ultra-Stable Omega-3 oils at the show, a range of fish oil–derived ingredients that the firm says are “two to five times more stable than conventionally stabilized omega-3s.” The new oils are available in EPA/DHA concentrations ranging from 30% to 80%.
Omega-7, or palmitoleic acid, is another ingredient that may fit nicely with omega-3s from a supply chain perspective, although it is still early days for studies on omega-7. Organic Technologies promoted its new omega-7 ingredient at SupplySide West, speaking to early research suggesting health benefits for heart health, insulin sensitivity, satiety, and skin health. But, Organic Technologies’ Dillingham noted, much of the omega-7 research thus far has been done in animal studies, so the supplier is hoping to get researchers interested in pursuing studies with human participants.
Omega-7s were a natural expansion area for Organic Technologies because it dovetails well with their omega-3 offerings, as both can be collected from the same Alaskan Pollock raw material. When asked whether Organic Technologies is looking to promote solutions combining omega-3s and omega-7, Dillingham said there has been some early research into possible synergistic effects of the combination, but right now the company is focused on documenting omega-7’s benefits by itself.
“We really feel like it’s a promising ingredient,” Dillingham said. “But we’ve got some work to do.”
Nutritional Outlook Magazine