Norwegian biotech company Aker BioMarine, which supplies its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified-sustainable Superba brand to the dietary supplement industry, has been teaching retailers and healthcare practitioners “How to Speak Krill” through its educational program focused on sustainability, traceability and health benefits.
Most people in the world are deficient in omega-3s, according to Chris Speed, MND, APD, an omega-3 expert who, as a nutritionist and dietitian, has recommended use of omega-3s as an important modality to support optimal health.
“More individuals are walking away from the omega-3 category as a result of the dissemination of poor scientific advice,” he noted. “Fish oil has been the poster child for the omega-3 category. However, evidence suggests up to 40% of individuals who would opt for fish oil are dissatisfied and they are walking away from the category. That’s unfortunate for public health. From an economic standpoint, the natural products space is losing revenue.”
As the second-largest omega-3 category, krill is a highly respected, researched and sustainable way of addressing deficiency of these essential nutrients, he added.
Aker’s “How to Speak Krill” program has been designed to offer validated information to natural product influencers at the point of retail in an effort to inform consumers better.
“Krill is an extremely important source of long-chain fatty acids,” said Dr. Speed, “and it can help bring people back to the omega-3 category while delivering the various health benefits we know omega-3s in the long chain fatty acid form can provide.”
Questions & Concerns
Controversy and skepticism about the sustainability of the krill fishery has been the biggest issue for the market, and the most significant point of misinformation, according to Dr. Speed.
“Many retailers had the misconception that krill is highly unsustainable—specifically in Florida, California and areas that typically have a legacy of concern for the environment.”
However, data suggest the amount of krill in the world’s ocean is approximately 500 million tons. The area in which krill is harvested for human nutritional products, known as Area 48 in the southern Antarctic Ocean (an area larger than the U.S.), contains an estimated 60 million tons of krill; of that population, one third of 1% (around 200,000 tons) is actually harvested. The rest is then freely available for marine life such as fish, penguins, whales and seals, which require an estimated 47.8 million tons on an annual basis, combined, according to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
As the only krill harvesting company certified by MSC, Aker boasts “100% traceability from sea to shelf, with the coordinates to prove it” (64° 14S; 61° 36W).
“We’ve been really excited by key brands across the market that have shown interest in partnering with the program,” said Dr. Speed. “Ultimately, we want to ensure more retailers, and brands those retailers purchase, are focusing on sustainable omega-3s. More and more prominent brands are realizing consumers will return to the category if we address issues of sustainability.”
However, skepticism persists among some environmental advocates. Recently, SumOfUs.org, “a movement of consumers, investors and workers” that claims membership of more than 5 million people around the world, petitioned CVS and other major retailers to stop selling krill supplements. The group said it obtained 64,000 signatures, urging retailers to “switch to sustainable omega-3 sourcing.”
Retailers aren’t the only influencers of health habits and knowledge. A recent survey of healthcare professionals showed practitioners are increasingly open to using omega-3s and other dietary supplements in their clinical practices.
The survey, conducted by Holistic Primary Care and commissioned by Aker BioMarine, was designed to gauge practitioner knowledge about clinical use of dietary supplements, particularly omega-3s among physicians, nurses and ancillary healthcare professionals across the U.S.
According to results from 362 respondents, nearly all practitioners (95%) are recommending some supplements as part of their routine practices.
Willingness to recommend omega-3s was high (88%), with 35% reporting they “Always” recommend them, and 53% saying they “Frequently” recommend them. Only 2% reported never recommending omega-3s.
While “Heart Health” remained the top reason for which respondents recommend omega-3s (82%), clinicians clearly recognized other health benefits, including: “Inflammation Reduction” (81%); “Cognitive/Mood Effects” (80%); and “Joint Health” (65%).
“Fatty Acid Composition” is the most important selection criterion (74%) for omega-3s. Specifically, issues such as EPA/DHA ratio and the form of omega-3s (phospholipid vs. triglyceride) mattered most to this group. Criteria like “Organic” and “Non-GMO” were also important for 56% and 55% of doctors, respectively. “Sustainable” was important to nearly half (46%).
“Omega-3s represent one of the most trusted and widely used categories of supplements among healthcare professionals. Clinicians recommend them for general wellness and prevention, but also use them to manage heart disease, mood disorders, and inflammatory conditions,” said Erik Goldman, editor, Holistic Primary Care. “Especially interesting is the finding that almost 30% of clinicians are recommending omega-3s more than they were a year ago.”
“As consumer interest in supplements continues to grow, practitioners will need to look at shifting from straight conventional mainstream models to more integrative or mixed approaches to help meet their patients’ needs,” said Becky Wright, marketing director, Aker BioMarine Antarctic US. “This survey reflects the significant growth of mainstream practitioner interest in supplements, with a particular emphasis on omega-3s. Our goal is to help doctors become more knowledgeable about all marine omega-3 options, so they can recommend them with confidence.”
According to Aker Biomarine COO Matts Johansen, the company continues to make major investments in clinical research to explore and better understand the health benefits of krill, while also looking to meet demand for new product formats such as gummy supplements. Aker has also invested significant time and resources to enter the Chinese nutritional products market.