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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.

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.

This can be achieved by targeting specific customer. For example, products targeted at children should be focusing on omega-3 association with brain and eye development as this will appeal parents. On other hand, products that are targeted to older consumers or seniors should instead address omega-3 links to cardiovascular benefits which are likely to be the bigger concern. Using this method, rather than using several differing health claims, will give customers a more tangible idea of why they need to consume omega-3s, compelling them to choose products fortified with them.

Focus on innovation

​​Segmentation and associated potential benefits can reduce the level of work customers need to do and also improve the chances of a sale, but by itself does not guarantee success. ​​The product must be competitive on all platforms, and not rely solely on its health benefits. It must also offer taste, convenience and appropriate pricing. ​​GOED recommends a daily intake of 500mg of long chain omega-3s. Unfortunately, most foods are unable to incorporate omega-3s to this degree without impacting significantly on the product properties including taste. ​​As customers will not tolerate products with off-taste or smell, innovative technologies that either minimize the sensory issues associated with omega-3s are or incorporate them into a wider variety of products with greater quantities are vital.

When developing omega-3 products, it is also important to bear in mind global trends that will determine the success of the product in the marketplace. Clean label is an example. One of the core principles of the trend is to minimize the number of ingredients. Fortification flies in the face of this as it is the addition of an ingredient, so many manufacturers consider bio-delivery to increase omega-3 fatty acid content of some foods that involves adding omega-3s to animal feed so that their tissues become enriched. Omega-3 enriched eggs, for instant, are created by this way. In a crowded market where products have the same or very similar features as eggs, the natural enrichment of omega-3s can even help the manufacturers to differentiate their products and possibly enjoy higher margins.

The Bottom Line

As omega-3s have beneficial effects on heart, brain, eye health at all stages of lifecycle, so adding these fatty acids into food products is a way that manufacturers can create value and potentially improve their profit margins. To be successful, brands need to have right marketing strategies and leverage innovations in the industry.

If you are interested in innovative solutions of Omega-3s fortification. Please feel free to contact us at


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