The new ingredient, called Deep Ocean Caviar, is a mixture of omega-3 oil from herring roe, pioneered by and supplied by Norwegian firm Arctic Nutrition, along with added astaxanthin and perilla oil, a Valensa specialty. The ingredient makes both a bioavailability/digestibility claim based on the phospholipid nature of the herring roe ingredient, and a sustainability claim, based on the certifications of the originating fishery.
Finished formulation strategy
The move is part of Eustis, FL-based Valensa’s overall strategy to move beyond being a base ingredient supplier that offers supercritical CO2 extraction services to becoming a full-fledged manufacturer of turnkey formulations. It’s a strategy that has been vigorously pursued over the past 10 years by Valensa CEO Rudi Moerck, PhD.
“About 85% of all of Valensa’s products are now formulated products,” Moerck told NutraIngredients-USA.
Moerck said the new ingredient follows a path in the omega-3 market first blazed by krill oil. A consistent subset of consumers report negative reactions to standard omega-3 fish oils because of the ‘fishy burp’ problem. This was at first written off by fish oil purveyors as krill oil marketing hype, but consumer research over the years has shown it to be a real facet of the market. Krill oil boosters have made the case for the higher bioavailability of their phospholipid-rich formulations, getting around another fish oil omega-3s hurdle: the need to swallow multiple large pills for a daily dose. Another issue that turns consumers off is the smell of older fish oil, which was until recently a big negative for krill oil, too. Krill oil suppliers are just now now bringing new forms onto the market that purport to deal with this issue.
“This product builds on the ‘one small pill a day’ message with no odor issues,” Moerck said. “We have several patents on joint health and eye health using krill oil, but krill oil does have some limitations.”
Roe from herring
The EPA and DHA content in the oil is supplied by the herring roe portion of the product. Arctic Nutrition, based in Ørsta, Norway, developed the product, dubbed Romega, over a period of years and formally launched in the US market in 2015. Arctic Nutrition tapped the deep talent pool of marine lipids chemists in Norway to help bring to market a mild-tasting ingredient (the company is offering a roe protein ingredient, too). Arctic Nutrition offers several concentrations, and Valensa selected one that offers 82 mg/g of DHA and 28 mg/g of EPA. Arctic Nutrition sources its roe from the spring spawning herring fishery in Norway, which the company says is MSC certified. Moerck said the nature of the species, being short-lived and feeding in pristine northern waters, means there is little chance of bioaccumulation of toxins in the fish and no contamination issues with the resulting ingredient.
In its own formulations Arctic Nutrition has been blending the herring roe oil with fish oil to adjust viscosity. Moerck said his goal was to avoid fish oil altogether.
“Being from Norway, they are ‘fish heads.’ We signed an agreement with them where we have exclusive rights to extract the herring roe using plant-based oils,” Moerck said.
Valensa said an antioxidant claim for Deep Ocean Caviar is possible, not only because of the astaxanthin content but because of the large serving of ALA (225 gm/g) supplied by the perilla oil. Moerck said its an opportunity to focus on ALA as a fatty acid in its own right, and not merely as a basis for conversion to EPA in the body. While that indisputably occurs, Moerck said the molecule has beneficial effects along the way.
“We think most Americans are somewhat deficient in ALA. We’re not a member of the fish oil camp or the phospholipids camp. We are a human health company and we do things on that basis. We are offing a DHA/EPA phospholipid ingredient because we know that phospholipids are absorbed about 10 times better than triglycerides,” he said.