Biotechnology company Aker BioMarine is launching a 100 per cent pure krill oil ingredient for dietary supplements, to help meet growing demand predicted for the ingredient.
Its new product, yet to be named, will be launched globally in 2008, assisted by Aker BioMarine's recent distribution agreements with Scandinavian health foods retail chain Life Europe AM and US-based distributor Jedwards.
"Although the market for krill oil is still in its infancy, it is set to experience triple digit growth in the next few years, providing a strong demand for the supplement," said nutrition and health EVP Jostein Dalland.
The company's expectations are based on estimates that it did wish to release, but Dalland told NutraIngredients.com that the market is still very much in its early infancy. But in the next couple of years it looks set to gain a "sizeable market share" in ingredients from the sea.
Krill, which means 'whale food' in Norwegian, are small shrimp-like marine crustaceans eaten by fish, birds and, in particular, whales.
The increased demand for it is a result of the many health benefits the oil is supposed to have because of its triple power that comes from containing omega-3, high concentrations of naturally-occurring antioxidant astaxanthin and marine phospholipids.
Aker BioMarine has conducted clinical studies on the effects krill oil can have on cardiovascular disease, inflammation and joint problems, but has yet to release the results.
Studies by another player in the krill oil market, Neptune Biotechnologies of Canada, suggest that because the omega-3 is bound to phospholipids. This enables a higher uptake of the tissues.
Omega-3 is considered one of the super-nutrients based largely on evidence it can aid cognitive function and may help protect against cardiovascular disease - amongst other studied benefits.
Studies using Neptune's krill oil have also shown promise in reducing symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome by 42 per cent, and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by regulating cholesterol levels, providing a 34 per cent reduction in low-density lipoprotein and a 44 per cent increase in high-density lipoprotein.
There is also evidence it can reduce chronic inflammation by 20 per cent.
Krill are considered to have the largest biomass of any multi-cellular animal in the world - between 100 and 800 million tonnes. Despite this, the population has reduced in the past 30 years, resulting in some concern over its harvesting.
According to the Antarctic Krill Conservation Project, fish farming uses about 75 per cent of the world's fish oil and 40 per cent of its fish meal, and this could increase to 79 per cent and 48 per cent respectively by the end of this decade.
Aker BioMarine said it places sustainability high in its list of priorities. Dalland said: "We have stringent quality checks in place and liaise with the World Wildlife Fund. Krill have a catch quota of 1 per cent of the biomass. We aim to only use 4 per cent of that quota."
Quality control and environmental consideration can be ensured through Aker BioMarine's agreement with Life Europe AB, said the company. Their partnership means that only two companies are involved in the entire processing chain - from harvesting Antarctic krill to placing it on the shelves.
Aker BioMarine also hopes to hold an advantageous position in the US through its agreement with Jedwards International, which is already one of the leading omega-3 distributors in the US, holding an estimated 25-30 per cent share in the US omega-3 market.
The ingredient will only be released as a finished dietary supplement product in Aker BioMarine's home market of Norway. Elsewhere, it will be sold for inclusion in established consumer dietary supplement brands.