ONC enters omega-3 branding fray

Related tags Fish oil Docosahexaenoic acid Omega-3 fatty acid Nutrition Martek biosciences

Ocean Nutrition Canada (ONC) has signed its first co-branding
license agreements that will see its MEG-3 brand fish oil
ingredients appear on supplement and food product labeling, and may
crystallize formulators' choice between marine and non-marine
sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

The Nova Scotia-based company​ has signed agreements with Natural Factors for the ingredient brand to appear on its RxOmega 3 Factors supplements packaging in the US and Canada; Ortho Molecular Products for its Orthomega line of fish oil supplements; and The Baker for its new line of healthy breads fortified with MEG-3.

Nicole Adams, vice president of marketing at The Baker, praised the fish oil food ingredient since it delivers added nutritional benefits without adulterating the taste or smell of the bread.

"This is the first time there has ever been a consumer brand for a fish oil ingredient, in both food and supplements, in the United States and Canada,"​ said Ian Lucas, vice president of marketing at ONC. "Until now consumers had no way to tell that the products they were purchasing reflected the highest quality standards of the ingredient manufacturer."

But it is not the first time the market has seen a branded source of omega-3. Martek Biosciences has also been making waves this year with its eponymous brand of microalgae-derived omega-3 ingredients.

In February it signed an agreement with breakfast cereal giant Kellogg under which it will supply the consumer foods giant with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) for use in a new line of fortified foods.

Martek spokesperson Beth Parker told NutraIngredients-USA.com in March that it is the microalgae origin that differentiates her company's product from other omega-3 sources on the market.

"Products are coming out that hide the fact that they are fish,"​ she said. "We want people to know that Martek products are derived from microalgae."

Despite the competition, Lucas said that the response to MEG-3 from business partners has been "tremendous".

Certainly the MEG-3 brand will be making its food product debut before Martek. The first Martek/Kellogg products are expected to be on shelves by mid-2006 whereas The Grocer's bread products have already been launched, with the branding expected to appear in the near future.

"We expect to see significant consumer exposure for the MEG-3 brand in the year ahead since consumers can purchase fish oil products and know they can trust the source."

In preparation for the demand this will engender, the company purchased a new production facility in Arcadia, Wisconsin, which will supply US customers from mid 2005.

It effectively doubles the company's capacity and frees up the existing facility in Dartmouth, Novia Scotia to fulfill orders from Canada, Europe and Asia.

There are also plans to expand the Dartmouth site as and when increasing demand from overseas requires.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been identified as playing an important part in cardiovascular health and their importance is highlighted in the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans published in January.

DHA only occurs naturally in foods such as fatty fish and organ meat, which do not figure prominently in the modern American diet. This means that most Americans are not consuming enough.

Last September the FDA issued a qualified heart health claim enabling manufacturers to label products containing omega-3 EPA and DHA as being heart healthy.

According to the American Heart Association more than 70 million Americans suffer from one or more type of cardiovascular disease, which accounted for 38 percent of deaths in 2002.

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