Norwegian Aker formed the JV (Aker BioMarine Manufacturing LLC) with Naturex in 2013, explicitly to utilise the French company's processing know-how in processing Aker’s Antarctic-sourced krill harvest at sites in Valencia, Spain, and in 2014, in Houston, Texas.
Naturex CEO Olivier Rigaud said the withdrawal “is fully in line with the execution of our Bright2020 plan to allow us to concentrate on our core businesses and develop the Group's strategic assets."
Aker marketing director Becky Wright told us the move "gives us complete oversight over krill fishing, processing, R&D and manufacturing of krill oil...from catch to capsule."
She said the firm's recently refined Flexitech processing technology meant it could go alone and permitted taste and odour control at high concentrations of the omega-3s and phospholipids krill oil is rich in.
Krill oil for human use has been growing at double digit rates for most of this decade and is estimated to be valued at about €100m globally – a small but significant segment within the overall marine-sourced omega-3 supply.
But sales in the biggest market – the US food supplements channel – have flatlined, affected by patent disputes between major players, a ban in Whole Foods retail outlets over sustainability concerns, and reduced marketing spend from leading brand, Schiff MegaRed.
In a statement Rigaud added: "As a longstanding partner, Naturex was able to assist Aker BioMarine, from the conception phase of this industrial project to its execution, by providing its technical expertise in extraction processes according to Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMPs)."
In the divestiture deal, Naturex will pay an undisclosed sum to Aker over three years, as ownership of the facility passes to Aker.
While the harbour-side Houston facility deal was announced in early 2014, the 13,500 square metre site that used to be a Nestlé ice cream plant did not become fully operational until September last year.
Aker recently had its Antarctic krill harvesting operation re-certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), widely regarded as the gold standard in fisheries certifications. The organisation set four baseline parameters for certifying Aker’s krill fishery. These were:
- Estimate target reference point (determine the risk for the krill stock associated with the krill harvest)
- Determine the fish larvae by-catch
- Effects of the fishery on the ecosystem/krill predators
- Map krill predator interaction
A report from NGO Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) last year rated 24 ‘reduction fisheries’ – stocks turned into fishmeal and fish oil – according to quality of management and status of the target stock using its public database of fishery information, FishSource.
Aker’s Antarctic operation was the sole fishery to be graded A, meaning the stocks were in ‘very good condition’.