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Organic algal omega-3 close to world debut

By Shane Starling , 22-Sep-2008
Last updated on 22-Sep-2008 at 16:33 GMT

A UK-based company says it is the world’s first to develop an algal-sourced DHA/EPA organic ingredient and is on the brink of launching in bakery, dairy and pharmaceutical products.

Eau+, which is owned by Swiss holding company Water4, said it had received hundreds of enquiries from international food, food supplements and pharmaceuticals players since its patent pending ingredient, V-pure, was brought to industry attention by NutraIngredients.com in early 2006.

A European bakery is conducting extensive testing with Eau+’s high-dose, emulsified ingredients and is assessing commercialisation options, while international dairy companies and pharma firms are also investigating the ingredient’s potential, said Eau+.

“We are the only company in the world that produces a commercially viable docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) organic product,” said Eau+ managing director, Tom Brudenell-Bruce.

“That is what has been gaining us a lot of attention from the likes of Danone and Unilever.”

Brudenell-Bruce said the patented process could deliver shelf-life in some matrices of up to three years with no taste or odour tariff and EPA/DHA doses up to 200mg per serving.

Competitive

Despite its organic status and the fact it is algal-sourced – a typically more expensive source than fish – Brudenell-Bruce said the ingredient would be competitive with other algal-sourced omega-3 ingredients including those from market leaders Martek Biosciences and Lonza, selling at around $100-$120 per kilogram. A DHA-only version will sell for about $80/kg.

The company also offers EPA, that like the DHA edition, is available in grades above 50 per cent.

He said the company has developed a patent-pending emulsification process that allows the ingredient to be employed in food matrices at much greater potencies than most offerings on the market, offering food manufacturers the prospect of “30-40 per cent savings”.

Brudenell-Bruce said he was not concerned about the likes of Unilever and Muller removing omega-3 products from the market in the UK this year.

Challenges

“Those products failed because their omega-3 doses were too low,” he said. “They also received very little marketing support, which any marketer will tell you is a recipe for disaster.”

Public interest in omega-3 remained high however, he said, noting that in the UK at least, fastidious label-reading consumers were looking for products that delivered omega-3 doses that met their expectations.

While no official recommended daily intakes (RDIs) exist, the UK Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM) recommends an EPA/DHA level of 450mg per day.

He said the company was capable of producing 1000 tonnes of oil per year at its UK facility.

Other targeted food categories include soy milk, ice cream, yoghurt, cheese, drinks and confectionery.

Omega-3 market

Most analysts continue to paint a rosy picture for the entire omega-3 sector. In supplements, Nutrition Business Journal valued the US market at more than $600m in current figures – and growing at around 30 per cent year-on-year.

New Nutrition Business magazine puts a similar figure on the European market and predicted both would soon breach the $1bn mark.

Frost and Sullivan’s European analysis revealed an omega-3 ingredients market growing at 24.3 per cent annually and projected all the way out to 2014, when it would be worth $1.6bn. This figure includes marine, algal and flaxseed sourced omega-3s.

Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) estimated there were 723 omega-3-bearing product launches in Europe in 2007, compared to 291 in 2005. In North America there were 541 debuts in 2007 and 315 in 2005.

These products include breads, milks, juices, tortillas, chocolates, yoghurt drinks, spreads, peanut butter, eggs, meat and more.

Omega-3 ingredients are clinically backed to deliver heart, brain and other health benefits.

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