Over the past two years a number of companies have developed technology for microencapsulating fish oils in a bid to protect the notoriously unstable oil from degradation by the rigours of food processing.
The fishy taste and smell that has beleaguered formulators in the past in as result of oxidation, but this can be avoided when the oil is contained within tiny shell-like particles.
The Wright Group unveiled its SuperCoat technology at the end of 2005. Meanwhile, Ocean Nutrition Canada has been making waves around the world with its Meg-3 brand, based on Powder-loc technology. Most recently, Firmenich announced that it is entering the fray with Duralife Omega 3, the first product to come out of its new nutrition and health unit.
While each of these players has striven to differentiate itself from the competition, it seems that they are moving on in their efforts from marketing communication to strategic alliances that secure both supply, and a wider customer base for their products.
For Puleva and Wright, the agreement enables the latter to develop a new line of stable fish oils using its own SuperCoat and Smart technologies and Puleva's Eupoly DHA/EPA oils.
The two companies are carving up sales and marketing rights along the lines where they already have a strong presence: Wright has the US and Canada, and Puleva Europe, Asia, and other markets in which it is active.
Yesterday's announcement follows Norwegian supplier Denomega's announcement in March that it is teaming up with Austrian microencapsulation firm GAT for the European market. Denomega has also tied itself to sourcing its oils from Norwegian seafood company Fjordlaks, a move expected to help it expand in the market.
But not everyone is taking the alliance route. Cognis chose to jump into the market with both feet, buying its own fish oil supplier Napro Pharma in May.
Although Cognis said that the initial benefit for Napro would be in taking advantage of its distribution network, a spokesperson said that it is also looking to apply its technological know-how to the ingredient, "developing innovative solutions for a variety of food applications including omega-3 products with a superior sensory profile".
In 2004 the European market for the omega-3 was valued at US$194 million (around €160 million), more than three-quarters of which was generated by marine oils. Algae-derived products by the likes of Nutrinova and Martek Biosciences made up 19 per cent of the market.
Frost and Sullivan has predicted that the omega-3 market will grow at rates of 8 per cent on average to 2010.