Omega-3: The King and Queen

The number of consumers who are seeking out products with high omega-3 fatty acids content has increased dramatically over the past few years due to increasing awareness about health benefits of omega-3s. In this Nutricle, we offer new insights into omega-3 products in order to help brands benefiting from this growing segment.

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You may have heard that omega-3s are important nutrients that you must get from your diet. But, most people do not know what they are.

​About Omega-3s

To explain in simple terms, omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for health. There are three main types:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

Even though the three fatty acids are essential the body, they are not the same. EPA and DHA are non-essential because the body can make both from ALA, but only in minimal amounts. The best way to get DHA and EPA is through food. ALA is a true “essential” omega-3 because our bodies can’t make it on its own, so we need to get ALA from our diet. It improves the omega-6s to omega-3s ratio and is a precursor to EPA and DHA, and only a small fraction of it is converted.

According to GOED (the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s), there is the vast body of science associated with omega-3s supports consumption for overall wellness, as well as specific cardiovascular and cognitive outcomes, dry eye syndrome, vision and brain development in infants and prevention of pre-term birth. On a different note, as leveraging health benefits is a clear way to differentiate products and also to improve profit levels, the omega-3 category has been attracted a large number of food and beverage companies.

New ideas are blossoming ​​ Different approaches to omega-3s fortification are abundant in the marketplace. They can be added as concentrated, purified compounds. They also may be added indirectly through nutrient-rich whole foods, which is what you get with various nuts (such as walnuts), seeds (such as flax-seeds, pumpkin seeds) and some green vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts, spinach and kale). Examples of foods being fortified Omega-3s include milk-based products, juices, table spreads, salad dressings, sauces, breakfast cereals, baked goods, infant formulas, baby foods, etc.

There even have been efforts to provide higher level of omega-3s in consumers’ diets right from the get-go by managing animals’ diet to influence its products as a mean of fortification. Some examples of foods being enriched with omega-3s in this manner are eggs, pork, chicken, tilapia.

Benefit-led massage: make it clear

While an increasing number of products added omega-3s have been hitting the shelves, the level of consumption even among customers familiar with omega-3 and its benefits is still low. People know that omega-3s are beneficial, but don’t feel the fatty acids are essential enough to increase it in their diet. In the US, for example, approximately 60% of consumers are aware that including omega-3 in their diet could benefit them, yet usage is estimated at only 20% according to Nielsen BASES USA. The believability gap refers to the difficulty in communicating research on omega-3s to customers and convincing them of the benefits. Euromonitor reported the omega-3 industry has to be more assertive in communication to turn awareness to usage.