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Trends > Omega-3

New Norwegian firm derives omega-3s from herring roe

By Hank Schultz , 06-Sep-2012
Last updated on 06-Sep-2012 at 18:09 GMT

A fresh face in the omega-3s category, Arctic Nutrition, is making a splash with a new ingredient taken from one of the world’s oldest fisheries, deriving its DHA-rich phospholipid oil from the roe of herring caught off Norway.

The company, based in the fjords of western Norway, officially launched at the Vitafoods show in Geneva, Switzerland in May. Company officials will make their North American show circuit debut at Supply Side West in Las Vegas in November where they will be setting meetings with potential customers and distributors.

Hogne Hallaråker, CEO of Arctic Nutrition, told NutraIngredients-USA: “Herring has been know as the silver of the sea and we take out the caviar from the herring and we then call that the gold.  We take the gold from the silver and we purify it. The oil we can get out of that is very rich in omega-3 phospholipids and has a very attractive profile.  It has a very potent level of DHA, actually much higher than tuna oil.”

Arctic Nutrition has trademarked a name for its ingredient, calling it MOPL, for Marine Omega-3 Phospholipids. The company makes similar statements about digestive tolerability and bioavailability as other phospholipids suppliers, such as the krill companies.

The price of the new ingredient hovers between the high-potency fish oils and krill, Hallaråker said. The cost would depend on the potency a customer desires; Arctic Nutrition has the capability of offer its oil in different concentrations, he said.

Sustainability a differentiator

But Arctic Nutrition seeks to differentiate itself from krill with its sustainability message.

Alvin Berger, PhD, chief scientific officer for Arctic Nutrition said: “The oil is extracted from the immature herring roe as part of an existing fishery in northwest Norway.  That’s important because we’re not starting a new fishery or depleting extra herring stock.”

Berger said fish roes have long been studied, though not herring roe specifically. A suite of cutting-edge studies is planned for the new ingredient, he said.

“We’re in the process of planning out the in vitro work, the animal work and the clinical trials,” he said. “The basic analytical work on the product has been completed.”

 “There has been strong interest because the fish oil market is tight and competitive. So when you come along with a concept that is quite new it has generated a lot of enthusiasm even before the studies are completed.”

Arctic Nutrition has signed up a European distributor called Novastell and is in discussions with North American distributors.

Like krill oil, the herring roe ingredient delivers DHA and EPA bound to a phospholipids backbone.  It shares with krill the claim to better digestibility, and also to an emulsifying capability in liquids. But unlike krill oil, the new ingredient has no shellfish allergy concerns, and potentially can be certified as halal and kosher.

Both Berger and Hallaråker stressed that the phospholipid form makes Artic Nutrition’s new ingredient more oxidatively stable than fish oils, making a functional food application a possibility. The supplement market is the first target for the new ingredient. In addition, Hallaråker said, the extraction process that removes the oil from the fish eggs also yields a high-quality protein from the yolks. This powder-form, neutral-taste ingredient could have functional food and in particular sports nutrition applications, he said.

Bioavailability proof under development

As to the claim for greater bioavailability, the jury among the scientific community is still out, whether the ingredient under discussion is from herring roe, krill or another source.

“The evidence is accumulating (for greater bioavailability) but it’s in its infancy. The companies that are selling phospholipids are doing good science and that takes time,” said Harry Rice, PhD, vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED).

Adam Ismail, executive director of GOED, sees this latest entry into the omega-3s universe as part of a natural market progression.

“Omega 3s, like any other product category whether it’s dairy or shaving cream or whatever, there is always some sort of market segmentation. This herring phospholipid oil is still quite new so it remains to be seen what the market niche they’re going to fill is.”

Within this segmentation, Ismail said, niche producers seek to have an individual story to tell, much as Arctic Nutrition has begun to do with its new ingredient.

“They do have individual value propositions.  With the herring roe and salmon roe, they do share that bioavailability message but they try to position themselves as somewhere between a fish oil and a krill oil,” he said.

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