Global omega-3 market set for ongoing 15-20% growth: Report

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

The omega-3 sector continues to expand, according to Packaged facts data
The omega-3 sector continues to expand, according to Packaged facts data

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acids, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-3 fatty acid, Us

The 2010 global omega-3 market – just for foods and beverages and food supplements – is worth €5.57bn, according to a new report, with growth predicted of between 15-20%.

Packaged Facts said the food, beverages and supplements figure, which excludes fish, represented a 17% rise on 2009.

This sector continues to show strong growth, although annual growth rates are naturally moderating downward from the explosive gains seen in 2004 and 2005,”​ Packaged Facts observed.

In 2003, global sales of such products sat at €685m which jumped to €1.4bn in 2004 and then €2.4bn in 2005.

Although growth rates have slowed since those peak years, Packaged Facts said it was far from overcrowded or saturated and predicted annual growth of 15-20% through 2015.

Several factors combine to create a positive growth environment for omega-3 consumer products:

  • continued consumer willingness to purchase functional food and supplement products;
  • expanding public awareness of omega-3 and its range of health benefits;
  • positive mainstream and trade media reporting;
  • developments in the regulatory environment;
  • increased market participation by major food and beverage manufacturers.

US

The US dominates with sales of $4bn (€2.78bn) in foods and drinks compared to $1.3bn (€900m) for dietary supplements, with much of the food and beverage figure accounted for by omega-3 fortified infant foods and formulas.

The US food and beverage sector is expected to grow 14.4% annually between 2006 and 2014, compared to 18% growth in the US supplements sector.

ALA, DHA, EPA

The report found that despite well-documented bioavailability issues for typically plant-sourced ALA (alpha linolenic acid), sales were not being impeded.

“Even though research has shown the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is inefficient, the number of foods formulated with flaxseed and other plant-based sources continues to increase because of the relative ease of handling; ease of incorporation into cereals, pasta and breads; and stability in these environments.”

For DHA​(docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA​(eicosapentaenoic acid), formulation improvements had been significant, as had imminent regulatory approvals, especially in Europe.

“European Union rulings regarding health claims for products containing omega-3s are expected to be favorable, and will affect the regulatory environment for such products in other major markets, including the United States.”

“Fish oil-based ingredients contain significant amounts of EPA and DHA, and thus are suitable for formulating products that can carry a qualified health claim,”​ the report said.

“Suppliers have made great strides in removing the fishy taste and smell from these oils, often accomplished through deodorization or encapsulation technologies.”

The researcher concluded: “The application of fish-sourced omega-3s into baked goods, beverages, dairy products, and other foods will increase both as manufacturers and suppliers find better methods to mask or eliminate any lingering ‘fishiness’ and as consumers become more aware of the palatability such efforts have on the end products they purchase in stores.”

Food v supplements

Packaged Facts said there were advantages in gaining omega-3s in the food supply rather than the via supplementation.

“The oils used to provide omega-3 fortification in foods and beverages must be of high quality – fresher and with less oxidative waste – because oxidation affects the smell and taste of the food. In addition, the ‘time-release’ benefit of consuming omega-3 fatty acids throughout the day in various foods and beverages may be more natural for the body.

Allocating partial recommended amounts of omega-3 fatty acids into a variety of foods also benefits formulators of these products, because issues of taste or other challenges are more easily met with a lesser percentage of the omega-3 ingredient included.”

It said formulation innovation would drive further expansion in the sector.

“For companies operating within the omega-3 food and beverage categories, even so, the market is far from reaching its saturation point. New types of foods and beverages with claims of ‘high omega-3’ or ‘high DHA’ continue to emerge, and there remains much room for innovation in both existing and new categories to meet rising consumer interest in omega-fortified foods.”

One example was high-dose fortified beverages for which technological challenges were, “expected to be overcome within the next two to five years, opening major opportunities in high-growth sectors such as functional water and sports drinks.”

The children’s and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets were also slated for strong growth.

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