Omega-3s fuel product innovation

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Food companies around Europe are adding heart-healthy omega-3 fatty
acids to traditional products as they seek to meet increasing
consumer demand for healthy food.

Recent launches compiled by Mintel's Global New Products Database​ show that adding omega-3 ingredients continues to be a source of innovation for bakery, dairy and meat companies.

Last month saw Spain's Grupo Siro launch Galleta Omega 3 biscuits under the Hacendado brand. The omega-3 and calcium-enriched biscuits are said to be ideal for a health-conscious consumer's breakfast.

In Ireland Corby Rock eggs introduced free range eggs with omega 3 and selenium. The company is marketing the range as a healthy and natural way to strengthen the body's defences against heart disease and cancer.

Spain's Adipan has launched a ready-to-bake bread that comes in both omega-3 and calcium varieties (Calcio Bone, claimed to help strengthen bones) while in France, Fleury Michon now offers Plaisir et Equilibre Jambon Supérieur Ham that is rich in omega 3 and has a reduced salt level.

Kathy Brownlie, an industry analyst from Frost & Sullivan, recently commented that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have one of the strongest futures of all functional food ingredients, based in a large part on the vast storehouse of well-documented research available.

"Most industry experts agree that more omega-3 PUFAs need to be incorporated into our diets,"​ she said.

Omega-3 PUFAs have been subjected to numerous medical and clinical trials by ingredient suppliers as well as independent organisations. This keeps them ahead of other competing ingredients like phytosterols for inclusion in a food or beverage product.

It could also give them a strong case for a health claim under forthcoming European regulation. Supplements of omega-3 fatty acids have been able to carry a health claim in the US for some time but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently allowed conventional foods rich in eiscosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to carry a qualified health claim stating that they may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

If a draft regulation on health claims issued by the European Commission last year stays as it is, omega-3s "could well come through as a generic claim,"​ Jean Feord, manager of the legislation unit at UK consultancy Leatherhead Food, told

Growing consumer demand for fortified foods has helped foster a European market worth more than €161 million for omega-3 PUFAs, accounting for 28 per cent of the global market volume, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Technology allowing them to be added to a range of different foods has helped food firms profit from this. Recent research​ suggests that foods that foods seen as indulgent but offering an extra health benefit can prove particularly successful on today's market.

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