This bread might sell, provided it really doesn’t smell.

Arnold Foods Co., Horsham, Pa., and Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Rochester, N.Y., both introduced retail varieties of bread this year that contain omega-3 fatty acid from fish oil.

In answering an obvious question, the manufacturers said the bread neither smells nor tastes like fish because of a microencapsulation process.

Arnold and Wegmans touted the health benefits of the bread, especially since omega-3 fatty acids received a marketing boost last September. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved this qualified health claim:

"Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA (eicosapentaenpic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of (name of food) provides (x) grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. (See nutrition information for total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol content)."

Consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may lower triglyceride counts, which is associated with lowering cholesterol, said Ian Lucas, marketing director of Ocean Nutrition Canada, Dartmouth, N.S.

Mary Ellen Burris, senior vice-president of consumer affairs for Wegmans, recently promoted omega-3 fatty acids in her weekly column.

"In the 1970s scientists wondered why the natives of the Alaska polar region had so few heart attacks, in spite of a diet of whale blubber and fatty fish," she wrote. "Since then, there’s been extensive study of the omega-3 fats and growing recognition that they may play an important role in heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, cancers and perhaps even mental illness."

The American Heart Association recommends consuming 1 gram to 4 grams a day of omega-3 fatty acids. Americans generally fall well below that number, consuming 100 mg to 200 mg per day, beneath even the recommended minimum of 650 mg per day, said Valeria A. Gorsuch, food applications scientist for Omega Protein, Houston.

Some Americans recognize the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Thirty-one percent of respondents said they believed their diets were deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, according to "The Health and Wellness Trends Database" from The Natural Marketing Institute, Harleysville, Pa.

Omega-3 ranked below calcium (37%), soy protein (34%) and fiber (31%) and above whole grains (29%), antioxidants (27%) and vitamin C (23%).

Eliminating the smell

Convincing consumers that bread with omega-3 fatty acids does not smell or taste like fish still could prove difficult. Both Ocean Nutrition Canada and Omega Protein said microencapsulation eliminates the smell and the taste. Ocean Nutrition Canada supplies omega-3 ingredients made from fish oil while Omega Protein is a supplier of fish oil.

Ocean Nutrition’s patented microencapsulated technology turns the oil into powder, Mr. Lucas said.

"That prevents the fish oil from oxidizing," he said. "You can put it in milk, bread, yogurt, ice cream. You get the nutritional goodness of fish without the taste or smell of fish."

Other possibilities are hamburger buns and even Krispy Kreme donuts, he said.

Selling down under

Bread with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil entered the Australian market about three years ago. Tip Top Bakeries offers the Tip Top Up brand in two varieties — Tip Top Up White Omega 3 DHA and Tip Top Up Omega 3 DHA wholemeal. Each variety has 163 mg of omega-3 fatty acid per 100 grams.

When launching the bread, Tip Top promoted the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids to consumers, health professionals and the media through an educational campaign. Commercials ran on television, on the radio and on the Internet. Advertisements were placed in newspapers, magazines and movie theaters.

Tip Top Bakeries is a division of Toronto-based George Weston Foods, Ltd., which means Weston Foods is familiar with Tip Top Up bread.

A part of George Weston Bakeries Inc., Arnold Foods Co. included an Omega-3 DHA/EPA 100% Whole Wheat bread variety in its new line of Arnold Smart & Healthy whole wheat bread. Arnold made the line available April 25 to supermarket chains in the Northeast.

The line should enter the Southeast and the Midwest this summer, said Fran Strazzella, vice-president of marketing for George Weston Bakeries, Bay Shore, N.Y. The company has prepared a marketing campaign around the bread line, which also includes Fibre Goodness 100% Whole Wheat, Made With Organic 100% Whole Wheat and Sugar Free 100% Whole Wheat.

Arnold’s omega-3 bread contains 33 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids per serving and has a suggested retail price of $3.79 per loaf, Mr. Strazzella said. When he discusses that bread, the first question people often ask is, does it smell like fish?

"It absolutely does not smell or taste like fish," Mr. Strazzella said.

Wegmans beat Arnold to market with its omega-3 bread. In its 68 stores spread over the states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia, Wegmans in January introduced three bread varieties with an apricot stripe on the bags: 100% Whole Wheat, 12 Grain and Very Low Sodium. Two slices of the Wegmans bread contain at least 80 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.

One other bread manufacturer may join the omega-3 trend. The research and development department at Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., continues to work in that area, said Janice Anderson, vice-president of marketing for Flowers Bakeries.

"Omega-3 is a place we need to be as bakers," she said at an American Society of Baking event in Chicago in March.

The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., has yet to introduce any omega-3 products, but the cereal maker this year entered into a 15-year agreement with Martek Biosciences Corp., Columbia, Md. Kellogg wants to develop foods containing Martek’s DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, under the exclusive docosahexaenoic acid license and supply agreement.

Extra steps needed

Food manufacturers will need to follow certain steps when incorporating omega-3 fatty acid into their products, Omega Protein’s Ms. Gorsuch said.

Food grade fish oil performs well in refrigerated or frozen foods, foods with a short shelf life and well-packaged foods, she said. Refrigeration is acceptable for short-term storage. Freezing is recommended for long-term storage.

Once fish oil is thawed and opened, Ms. Gorsuch recommended using it immediately. Food manufacturers should avoid giving fish oil excessive exposure to heat, light, air and metals. For optimal conditions, it should be baked at 350°F for up to 20 minutes. Bake it at 375°F when the oil is incorporated into a melted solid fat.

Omega-3 supply

The U.S. supply of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil has yet to be a problem.

Ocean Nutrition Canada, responding to increased demand for its omega-3 ingredients, purchased an existing facility in Aracadia, Wis., in February.

Omega Protein makes its products from menhaden, a fish that is not used for seafood but is available along the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Omega Protein has four processing facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia.

A joint agreement between Omega Protein and National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J., led to National Starch introducing an encapsulated long-chain omega-3 fatty acid in powder form. Called Novomega, the ingredient is designed for inclusion in baked foods.