Frost & Sullivan said European sales of marine and algae sourced omega-3 ingredients that had a value of €250m ($323m) in 2008, would be worth €406m ($525.6m) in 2013, as the industry capitalises on market and regulatory changes.
While omega-3 forms eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are best known for their ability to benefit heart and brain health, market growth is likely to, “jumpstart key condition-specific health markets such as … joint health and immune health”.
Frost analyst Dr Kaushik Ramakrishnan Shankar said fish oil had made technological advances in taste, texture and shelf life that had opened food matrix potential. But further development was required if it was to achieve the formulation neutrality enjoyed by algae sourced omega-3s.
“There is scope for improvements,” Dr Shankar said. “If it continues the market is set for explosive growth especially with positive health claims coming through for infant health from the European Food safety Authority (EFSA).”
Frost singles out the Global Organization of EPA & DHA Omega-3 (GOED) and broader trade groups as being a key driver in the segment’s growth.
"Industry associations have been successfully formed to protect their interests and voice their opinions to government agencies charged with regulating food ingredients," said Frost research consultant Christopher Shanahan.
"These associations play a critical role in addressing crucial legislative challenges facing the industry and in providing opportunities that benefit the overall growth of the market."
An initiative like the GOED-funded Omega-3 Learning Consortium for Health and Medicine at Purdue University in the US was cited as an example of an industry-led project to collect and disseminate omega-3 information to consumers, the health sector and the media.
The regulatory picture is mixed with the US Food and Drug Administration reconsidering approved omega-3 content claims but a similar claim recently approved in the European Union is assisting the industry.
"On February 12, 2010, the European Parliament approved nutrition claims for omega-3s allowing food products to claim they are either a 'source of omega-3 fatty acids' or that they contain 'high omega-3 fatty acids'," said Shanahan.
"This is a positive development because it will enhance both consumer awareness and usage across Europe, in countries where consumers already understand the value of omega-3s."
But the European Union is yet to finalise a Dietary Reference Value for omega-3s.
Frost said consumers were increasingly interested in getting their omega-3s in the from of foods, although omega-3 food sales are currently dwarfed by supplement sales globally.