Rallying around omega-3

by Jeff Gelski
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The omega-3 fatty acid market may need a boost, and it could come from various sources. A consumer education campaign should get into full swing next year. An industry organization wants to establish recommended intake levels for certain omega-3 fatty acids, and a proposed health claim related to blood pressure reduction has been filed with the Food and Drug Administration.

Surveys show the omega-3 fatty acid market slipping. Twenty-one per cent of Americans in 2014 said they were trying to get a certain amount of omega-3 fatty acids or as much as possible into their diet, which was down from 25% in 2013, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation 2014 Food & Health Survey. Data from the Natural Marketing Institute show 50% of Americans in 2013 indicated they wanted to consume more omega-3 fatty acids, which was down from 56% in 2009.

An effort to pump up those percentages will come from a consumer education campaign funded by an industry coalition. The campaign will focus on the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, said Adam Ismail, executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) in Salt Lake City. The GOED will execute the campaign scheduled to begin early next year.

“We’re still working on the details of that,” he said. “It will likely be heavy TV advertising, social media, public relations.”

A 17-member coalition was formed to develop and execute an unbranded, integrated, consumer education, awareness and advocacy program, according to DSM, a member of the coalition along with the GOED. Goals of the campaign include increasing preference, purchase intent and sales of omega-3 fatty acid supplements and products, and generating awareness of heart health benefits. The campaign will target adults age 45 to 64, according to DSM.

“It’s not only an ad campaign, but it is looking also to opinion leaders,” said Feike Sijbesma, chief executive officer and chairman of the management board for DSM, in an Aug. 5 call to discuss second-quarter earnings. “It is also looking to retailers and special actions together with them.”

DSM uses an algal source in its ingredients with EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two omega-3 fatty acids that also are found in fish oil. The life’s product portfolio from DSM offers a vegetarian and sustainable source of omega-3 fatty acids. In DSM’s second quarter, sales in dietary supplements for vitamins and fish oil-based omega-3 fatty acids in the United States were down versus the same period last year.

Mr. Ismail said food and beverage manufacturers would like more ways to make omega-3 fatty acid claims.

“I think in the U.S., what we’ve heard is that a lot of food companies are looking for some certainty on how they can communicate either the benefits or the levels of omega-3s in the product before making big product launch decisions,” he said.

The GOED is seeking to establish recommended intake levels in the United States for EPA and DHA.

“The U.S. and Canada are basically the last developed countries in the world that don’t have recommended intakes established for EPA and DHA,” Mr. Ismail said.

The World Health Organization has a recommended minimum intake of 250 mg per day, but specific countries, such as Japan, have higher levels, he said.

“They are all over the place,” Mr. Ismail said. “We tend to believe that 500 mg (of EPA and DHA) is a good minimal intake per day.”

Omega-3 fatty acid awareness increased in 2004 thanks to a qualified health claim from the Food and Drug Administration. The claim said, “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Qualifying for the claim does not require a product to have a minimum dosage of EPA and DHA, Mr. Ismail said. He would prefer such a requirement.

“We want consumers to know that they are getting enough to actually make a difference for coronary heart disease,” he said.

The GOED has filed a petition with the F.D.A. for another potential qualified health claim, this one dealing with blood pressure reduction. For evidence, the GOED commissioned a meta-analysis that examined 70 randomized, controlled trials conducted with adults who were given EPA/DHA omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, fortified foods or dietary supplements. The most significant effects were found in people with existing high blood pressure. The average decreases for those people were 4.51 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 3.05 mm HG in diastolic blood pressure. The study was published this year in the July issue of the American Journal of Hypertension.

The GOED’s proactive moves in 2014 come after the industry played defense in 2013. An article published on-line July 10, 2013, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found increased prostate cancer risk among men with high blood concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.

“The big thing about that study was, it wasn’t a study looking at actual intakes,” Mr. Ismail said. “It was looking at plasma levels of omega-3s, which is different from consumption.”

He said the GOED has commissioned a meta-analysis that looks at the totality of evidence related to omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer. He said he hopes the study will be published this year.

Oil blend with omega-3s offers stability

Fish oil’s lack of stability often has stood as an impediment to its potential use in such applications as bread, dairy products and meal replacement products. Now, Cargill has found a partner for fish oil, resulting in a potential solution to the stability problem. The company’s IngreVita ingredient is a blend of fish oil, canola oil and proprietary antioxidants.

“High-oleic canola is extremely stable,” said Kristine Sanschagrin, marketing manager of specialty seeds and oils for Cargill, Minneapolis. “It’s really been able to change the way business is done in frying applications as well as replace oils in long-term shelf life stable products.”

Cargill introduced IngreVita at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in New Orleans in June.

“We have had tremendous customer response to IngreVita, a lot of interest,” Ms. Sanschagrin said. “I think a lot of it in the past had to do with performance as well as the price point. It just made it very difficult to get a real stable product (when using fish oil). It was just very expensive.”

She said one gram of IngreVita may replace nearly all the oil in bread to allow a serving of white bread to contain 32 mg of EPA/DHA, two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.

“Some bread does have a little bit more oil in it than that, but it’s typically around a gram or a gram and a half per serving,” Ms. Sanschagrin said.

Cargill has achieved 21 days of shelf stability in bread formulated with IngreVita.

In crackers, IngreVita may replace a percentage of the oil. Crackers with IngreVita may be stored at ambient temperatures. They have reached 12 months of shelf life.

In meal replacement products, IngreVita has been shown to withstand a high heat process and to work with Tetra Pak packaging. Cargill has developed an 8-oz meal replacement beverage that contains 32 mg of EPA/DHA.

“We haven’t quite hit 12 months with that because that’s been a bit more complex product for a food developer as far as an application,” Ms. Sanschagrin said of the meal replacement beverages. “We are at just about seven months with no off flavors.”

In dairy products, IngreVita may replace a percentage of oil, and the product may be stored at ambient temperatures. Ms. Sanschagrin said salad dressing with IngreVita has achieved nine months of shelf life.
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