Trust me, I'm a doctor: European omega-3 consumption depends on physician backing, GOED

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Should omega-3 firms be looking to build connections with national health services?
Should omega-3 firms be looking to build connections with national health services?

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Lack of a recommendation from a doctor, taste and price are all top deterrences for European consumers reluctant to take omega-3 – but sustainability is not a key concern, according to the results of a seven-country survey from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED).

Speaking at the industry event HiE in Amsterdam this week, the association looked at market motivators and de-motivators for France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the UK and found that a 'generic' European market did not exist and each region required a different strategy to up consumption.

Based on responses from 1000 consumers in each country, Dr Aldo Bernasconi, GOED's director of information and research, told NutraIngredients that Russia, Germany and Spain required education campaigns, quality concerns should be addressed in Italy and in France and the UK healthcare providers held the key. Meanwhile, in Turkey and the UK more entry level products should be introduced.

What would you recommend?

Bernasconi said in every country the opinion of a healthcare provider and product quality was an influencer.

In the UK 63.5% put this opinion as a top factor, while this stood at 85.1% in Turkey, 82.6% in Spain, 61.9% in Russia, 79.5% in Italy, 52% in Germany and 71.4% in France.

In Italy 74.1% of respondents noted product quality as a key influencing factor, followed by 72.2% in Russia, 70.8% in Spain, 66.9% in France, 63.9% in Turkey, 59% in Germany and 53.7% in the UK.

Yet he said the breadth of these attitudes meanth there wasn't a one-size-fits-all solution for multinationals. “If you're talking about Germany and Russia the reasons [for not taking omega-3 supplements] is that: 'We are not aware of the benefits or I've never heard of omega-3'. So if you're going to launch a product it makes a certain amount of sense to do a public eduction campaign about the benefits and the science behind that.

But this would be completely useless in France, for example, because the main reason is: 'My doctor didn't say this.' So you can spend as much money as you want on public campaigns to present this scientific information but this is not going to do any good. You need to connect with the healthcare system. You need to communicate with doctors.”

He said, compared to the US, connecting with healthcare professionals was easier in Europe because for the most part these countries had centralised healthcare systems.

So you have a common standard of care and you have common recommendations for physicians. In the US that doesn't exist – you have very fragmented healthcare, which means if you want to convince someone of adopting a certain standard of care you have to talk to each one of them personally or you have to talk to the realtively larger associations that employ them.”

On the other hand he said national healthcare systems tended to be much slower to make these decisions on recommendations.

Sustainability who?

Sustainability did not feature high on the list of concerns for any of the countries looked at, compared to the other reasons. “Sustainability is never one of the top priorities [for omega-3 consumers].”

He said this was because sustainability and certification efforts over the past few years had tackled previous concerns on overfishing and best practice. He said this was now a heavily regulated industry, with many sectors like krill working within extremely conservative catch limits to allow for optimum re-population of marine stocks.

One firm at the show said sustainability was a less important point in the minds of European consumers when compared to US prioritie. As a result the European version of its eduction packs given to clients and handed on to retailers were tailored to focus more on science and less on sustainability, despite the same standards being adhered to for each market supply chain.

Filing in the blanks

He said the data had its limitations – being conducted online the surveys tended to under-represent certain socio demographics. Meanwhile he said that further data on Eastern European markets like Poland could be interesting since these markets were growing in a completely different way with growth seen in fish oils like cod liver oil.

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1 comment

DHA EPA & 3 omega oil acceptibility

Posted by Dilip Jhala (Food Tech),

Awareness among s Doctors through media can help in this program

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