Speirs Nutritionals targets Europe with omega-3

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acid

New Zealand group Speirs Nutritionals hopes a new omega-3 plant
will help it branch into the European market and beyond, offering
both EPA and DHA molecules into a range of food products.

The production plant will use a technology which allows both omega-3 EPA and DHA molecules to be extracted from fish oil and put into foods aimed at the burgeoning markets of Europe and the US.

The company says this can be done without leaving a trace of fishy taste or smell.

Tests are currently being carried out to calibrate equipment at the plant with full-scale commercial production intended to start before the end of the year.

The encapsulation technique, which has been developed over the past two years by scientists at the Riddet Centre at Massey University, means EPA and DHA can be put in ice cream, yoghurt, smoothies, as well as baked goods, the company says.

Speirs, which has invested some €2.2m (NZ$4m) in the centre, said it has the capacity to produce up to 10,000 tonnes of omega-3 emulsion per annum.

The company is targeting markets in North America, Europe and India as well as Australia and New Zealand General manager David Speirs said: " Europe and North America are the most affluent markets, and consumers there have more discretionary spend.

Consumers in those markets are also more aware of functional foods, in particular the benefits of omega 3s.

" We contacted a number of R&D groups and found that it's difficult to put an absolute figure on [the value of] it.

But it's a significant market that's worth chasing, and we're absolutely confident that the market has significant growth potential. "

Omega-3 has been identified as one of the super-nutrients taking the food and supplements industry by storm.

Much of its healthy reputation that is seeping into consumer consciousness is based largely on evidence that it can aid cognitive function and may help protect the heart against cardiovascular disease.

Increasingly food companies have been looking to add the benefits of omega-3 into their products.

Already, Premier Foods has brought out a line of baked beans filling this category, and Dairy Crest is due to launch a second enhanced spread.

According to the latest Frost and Sullivan figures the European omega-3 market was worth around €160m (£108m) in 2004 - and is expected to grow at around 8 per cent a year until 2010.

The potential benefits of omega-3 supplements are said to be wide and varied, with a clinical studies linking the fatty acids to having a positive effect in combating depression and agitation symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Omega-3 has also been linked to weight loss, cardiovascular health, infant development and joint health.

Speirs Nutritionals is a joint venture by the a partnership of Manawatu-based interests The Riddet Centre, Massey University, The Bio Commerce Centre, and Speirs Group Limited.

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