The US arm of Israeli biotech firm Enzymotec says it is confident of sustaining double-digit growth in sales of krill oil as awareness of its multiple benefits grows.
He said: “We are one of the fastest growing companies in the krill market and we have a much more diversified client base than rivals, more different grades and a position in all sections of the market, particularly at the high-end.”
Demand was such that Enzymotec had increased production capacity “several times” in the past three years, he claimed.
“There are several new launches coming up in supplements. We’re also talking to food and drink manufacturers although there is no commercial product containing our krill in the US yet.
“The cost structure [of incorporating a very high value ingredient into a low margin food] is the main problem, although I think companies are beginning to understand the additional benefits of krill oil versus fish oil.”
To differentiate itself in the market, Enzymotec was keen to make freshness a USP, said Hotam.
“TMA [trimethylamine – a smelly compound released as the oil degraded] is an important indicator of freshness but there are products in the market with high levels of TMA that companies are trying to cover up with other ingredients.
“Our data sheets now include levels of TMA and TVN [total volatile nitrogen] for both our pure and high-potency krill oil grades.”
Hilla Attias, product manager for bioactive ingredients, added: “Freshness is very important to people when they buy food, but they don’t think about it when it comes to dietary supplements.
“Enzymotec is the only manufacturer to voluntarily adopt the new freshness standards of TMA and TVN set to ensure krill oil's integrity and efficacy over the course of its shelf-life.”
Grades of krill oil
As for different grades of krill oil, and whether there was sufficient transparency in current labeling regimes (an issue recently raised by Aker Biomarine ), Hotam said: “I agree entirely that every product should be labeled clearly to say what it is in it.”
Commenting on the practice of blending krill oil with other ingredients (fish oils, medium chain triglycerides, algae) to achieve specific ratios of phospholipids and omega-3 fatty acids, he said Enzymotec supplied pure krill oil with 40 percent phospholipids; high potency krill oil with 42 percent phospholipids and extra astaxanthin; and customized grades [blends] that were less expensive.
“We provide customers with the freedom to choose.”
Attias added: “We would rather put aside minor issues which divert the attention of the media and focus on more important issues such as addressing the need to increase the quality standard of krill oil.
“As a key member of the GOED [global omega-3 EPA and DHA organization] committee set to standardize a krill oil monograph , we are actively involved and support all discussions that aim to set quality standards and methodology.
"This includes the accurate and proper labeling of krill-oil based products.”
Eric Anderson, vice president sales & marketing at krill supplier Aker Biomarine Antarctic US, said:
“A GOED monograph will be very helpful to determine the composition of real krill and standard analytical methods; it is not helpful for companies to independently choose arbitrary markers for standards, nor to call blends of multiple ingredients krill oil or krill oil products, they are blends.”
Wael Massrieh, R&D director at fellow krill supplier Neptune Technologies & Bioressources added: "Never in our GOED discussions about the monograph have TMA nor TVN been regarded as viable indicators to be included in the monograph.
"Even when the topic was raised in the last meeting it was avoided."
What is krill?
Krill are deepwater marine planktonic crustaceans that look like tiny shrimps.
Krill oil is an excellent source of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are rendered more bioavailable because they are carried by phospholipids rather than triglycerides (as in fish oil).
It also naturally contains antioxidants including astaxanthin, as well as vitamins E and A, which makes it more stable than other sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids.