The US omega 3 ingredient market will grow 40% over the next four years, and sales of foods and beverages touting “high omega 3” or “high DHA” claims will approach the $7 billion mark by 2015, according to "Omega-3 Foods and Beverages in the US, 3rd Edition," a study from Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, which is based in New York, NY. The report estimated U.S. retail sales of food and beverage products with a “high omega 3” or “high DHA” claim (omega-enhanced products) grew 11% and approached $4 billion in 2010.
The report found that of the estimated 7347 food and beverage products introduced to the U.S. market between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2010, products with claims or tags of “high omega-3” or “high DHA” (excluding fish) represented about 13% of the new products.
At present, the report counted more than 100 U.S. marketers of “high omega 3” and/or “omega-enhanced” food and beverage products. Foods and beverages with “high omega 3” claim represented the largest category of introductions by claim, representing more than 12% of the product volume introduced from 2005 through 2010. The leading categories in “high omega 3” claims/tags for food and beverage products, excluding fish, introduced between 2005 and 2010 were cereal bars, breakfast cereals and functional drinks, followed by baby snacks, other savory snacks, breads and rolls, and milk/cream products.
As for the proliferated use of omega 3 oils in foods and beverages, the report cited Experian Simmons national consumer survey data, which found usage rates for fish oil supplements steadily rising. “Overall, the percentage of U.S. adults who use any type of nutritional supplements edged up slightly from 60% in 2005 to 62% in 2010, with usage rates dipping slightly during the recessionary years,” the report stated. “Usage of fish oil supplements, in contrast, jumped from 7% in 2005 to 18% in 2010, such that more than 20 million U.S. adults are now taking fish oil supplements.”
The report characterized the omega 3 oil market as “still maturing,” and credited novel production technologies for enabling more innovative formulation, allowing omega 3 fatty oils to be included in an expanding number of foods and beverages. The technologies successfully delivered “the assortment of scientifically backed health benefits to consumers without the unpleasant fishy odor or taste.”
For many years, fish oils and powders, the main sources of omega 3 fatty acids, were primarily consumed as dietary supplements. As technology allowed different formulations, marketers began to add fish oils to different types of foods, beginning with spreads and oils, and continuing into dairy products, cereals and even fruit-flavored beverages. Consumer perceptions that fish oils and powders impart a bad taste or smell to food had impeded the unlimited introduction of omega fatty acids into all types of foods and beverages, although these concerns have largely been resolved.
“When the first omega 3-enriched foods entered the market in 2003, some predicted that there would be a flood of products within a couple of years. But the challenges of finding ways to get the fatty acids into foods and beverages, making the resulting product palatable and achieving a reasonable shelf-life were more daunting than expected,” commented Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts.
Now that many of these technology hurdles have been overcome, he said more categories of products have become viable candidates for fortification with omega fatty acids. "Several industry experts we interviewed believe the biggest trend in the next five to 10 years will be food and beverage companies seeking to fortify their products with omegas,” Mr. Montuori added.
Daniel Alexander Granderson, market analyst with MarketResearch.com, told Nutraceuticals World that there are several things the market must do to maintain growth, including “continually improving technology that masks or eliminates any unpleasant taste/odor related to the oil, in addition to educating consumers about the health benefits of fatty acids (scientific findings linking omega 3s to cardiovascular health, brain health, inflammation, etc., have been among the market’s biggest benefactors to date).”
He went on to explain another key element to securing the market’s future: tapping into the vast segment of consumers that fall outside those typically targeted by omega 3 manufacturers, including seniors, mothers, mothers to be and children.
Mr. Granderson discussed the report’s additional consumer group findings. “A huge and largely untapped market is the youth market—teenagers—and under-50s, whose requirements for these nutrients are just as great but who often do not consume a diet that supplies them,” the report stated.
“The 20-year-old to 40-year-old group is a key market for particular niches, for example, functional drinks. This is a demographic that often has a relatively large disposable income and is generally willing to pay higher-end prices for good-tasting products with wellness or health-boosting claims. Consumers in their 40s and 50s are more generally aware of heart and cognitive diseases, osteoarthritis and age-related conditions and are educated about the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids in preventing the development of these conditions.”
Looking forward, the report stated that the industry will continue to meet the high global demand for EPA and DHA omega 3 oils (which were forecasted to be upwards of 190,000 tons by 2015) with greater confidence in fish oil purity, as well as with alternate sources of omega fatty acids, such as microalgae and krill oils to help alleviate concerns of fish stock sustainability.
Great News for the Omega-3 Market
Double-digit growth predicted thanks to ongoing demand for products containing omega-3 fatty acids.
By Joanna Cosgrove