Neptune Technologies is taking Neptune Krill Oil into Europe, following the approval of its logo and trademark by the European Registration Office, where it is tipped as a functional food ingredient as well as a dietary supplement.
The NKO trademark was found to conform to the requirements of the Direction Départementale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes, paving the way for the ingredient's debut in Europe.
Concurrent with the geographical extension, the ingredient is also making its way into functional foods for the first time - and indeed Europe is seen as an ideal market for this.
"Europe is more open-minded than the United States about functional foods," VP R&D and business development Tina Sampalis told NutraIngredients-USA.com at FiE in Paris yesterday.
NKO, derived from the planktonic family of crustaceans, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, phospholipids and anti-oxidants. It was launched in the United States in 2003. To date it has been used only in soft gels, but since it has undergone safety testing for approval as a new dietary ingredient (NDI) it is also assumed to be generally recognised as safe (GRAS) for use in conventional food products.
Sampalis said that it is likely there will eventually be a geographical split, with more functional foods containing the ingredient in Europe and more dietary supplements in the US.
One area where she expects it to do well in foods in the US, however, is in infant formula and baby food; it is far easier to give a small child food than it is to give them a soft gel.
In the functional foods arena, Neptune's key competitor is Martek Biosciences, which also supplies microalgae-derived DHA for infant formulators and is now starting to make inroads into other foods. Thus far the two companies have followed a similar trajectory of development. Martek was granted European novel food status for its microalgae-derived DHA oil in 2003.
From the state of current negotiations, Sampalis expects that Neptune's first functional food product will be in Europe, possibly as soon as six months from now.
Since the launch in Europe effectively makes NKO available to 860 million new consumers, the company's expansion may well be rapid. At present it is operating at 45 percent capacity, producing 60,000 kg of NKO per year. But by the end of 2006 anticipates reaching full capacity, after which point a new production plant will be required.
The new plant will be located on the west coast of the United States, where the majority of Neptune's customers are based. Moreover, since the fish from which the oil is sourced come from the Antarctic Ocean, a move to that side of the American land mass will cut transportation costs considerably.
Sampalis said it is anticipated that all production of NKO will be moved to the US facility once it is operational, but the company does not plan to dispose of its Quebec base. Rather, this will be turned over entirely to production of a new krill ingredient, which is expected to make its debut on the market in spring 2006.
As for Europe, NKO will be supplied in Europe through a distributor yet to be announced. A European facility is also in the company's plans, but this will follow the west coast move. The country has not yet been decided on.