Croda said “major European companies” were interested in the vegetarian potential of the ingredient to deliver heart, brain and other health benefits.
The European Commission approval, according to the company, applies to milk and yoghurt-based drinks, cereals, nutrition bars and food supplements.
The ingredient, called Incromega V3, would feature in soft gel food supplements in the UK by year’s end with other European markets to follow, said technical and applications manager, Steve Mellor.
It was already being used in food supplements in the US after it achieved New Dietary Ingredient status there earlier in the year.
Incromega V3 is an oil extracted from the echium plant which is grown in the UK and has a similar lipid profile to borage oil and blackcurrant oil.
Echium oil is high in stearidonic acid (SDA), which can be converted by the body to eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic Acid (DPA).
“We are marketing it as a vegetarian alternative to fish oil,” Mellor told NutraIngredients.com.
“The conversion rate from SDA to EPA and DHA is very high. For instance, typical conversion rates from ALA to EPA and DHA in flax are around 4-5 per cent or less. Our research shows the conversion rate from SDA to EPA and DHA is around 30 per cent.”
He wouldn’t reveal the ingredient’s cost but noted it would be more expensive than vegetarian sources such as flax.
“The supplements will be more expensive than vegetarian alternatives but the health benefit will be greater,” he said.
For the time being Croda was not looking at the functional foods and beverages market.
The Novel Foods application was submitted to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) on August 4, 2006 and approved June 27 this year, after the application was passed to all 27 EU Member States for input.
Croda provided data in response to Member State concerns about issues such as contamination, all of which were appeased.
Mellor said the application had cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in data collection and preparation.
The application included two clinical studies using doses of STA at up to 1.9g per day, over a 12 week period, at which level it was found to have no significant effect on immune function; to decrease serum trigylcerides; and to have no significant effect on either LDL or HDL cholesterol levels.
Croda Health Care vice president David Cherry said in a statement: "There is a huge demand for plant-based omega-3 sources to cater for vegetarians and those who prefer not to consume their recommended weekly intake of oily fish and we feel our Incromega V3 ingredient caters perfectly for this market."
Croda has been active in the omega-3 area, recently launching a krill/fish oil suite of ingredients in conjunction with Canadian krill oil supplier, Neptune Technologies & Bioressources.
It used this year’s VitaFoods show to debut a relatively unknown omega-3 form – docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) – a 22-chain omega-3 as is DHA.
Market researcher Frost & Sullivan put the European omega-3 market at about €187m in 2007, and predicted it would grow to 820m by 2014 – a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.6 per cent.