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PNI launches plant-sourced omega-3 for beverages

By Lorraine Heller , 17-Mar-2009

Proprietary Nutritionals Inc (PNI) has launched a microencapsulated version of its plant-sourced omega-3, which the firm says allows it to be used in beverage applications.

The new product in the firm’s Benexia line of ingredients is a water soluble powder derived from chia and containing omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-6 linolenic acid (LA).

Chia is the edible seed of the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family, which grows in Latin American countries including Mexico, Argentina and Peru.

PNI president Dean Mosca claims the ingredient has a “very good” ALA:LA ratio of 3:1, meaning it can help fortify foods and beverages with significant amounts of omega-3 without adding too much of the unnecessary omega-6 fatty acids.

Western diets are currently deficient in omega-3 but contain far too much omega-6. Mosca said 1g of the new ingredient delivers 210mg omega-3 and 60mg omega-6.

“This 3:1 ration is one of the highest out there in plant sourced omega-3s,” he told NutraIngredients-USA.com.

Other ingredients in the Benexia line are chia bulk seed, sprouted seed, milled seed, flour and oil. According to the firm, these could be used in “almost all food applications” with the exception of beverages.

The firm’s microencapsulation process, which was in development for around six months, allowed it to create a powdered format of the ingredient from the chia oil, in order to solubalize it for use in beverages.

The company did not clarify what the microencapsulation process involves, but said it was patent-pending.

Mosca told NutraIngredients-USA.com that Benexia ALA powder is “very competitive to other plant sources of omega-3”, and has a target price range of $35 to $40 per kilo.

Health claims

The claims that can be used on products containing omega-3 are currently confusing as there is no set recommended daily intake level. In addition, there is often no distinction made between ALA and the longer-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – which are primarily fish-derived and which are better scientifically substantiated.

Currently, the only claim associated with omega-3 is a qualified health claim for reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) on conventional foods that contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids.

Qualified health claims are those based on emerging evidence for the relationship between a food or supplement and a reduced risk of disease.

Market

A report published by Packaged Facts earlier this year noted that the market for omega-3 foods and drinks grew 34 percent between 2006 and 2007, from $3bn to almost $5bn.

By 2012, Packaged Facts estimates that EPA/DHA-enhanced foods will represent nearly 78 percent of all omega-3-enhanced food and beverage product sales in the US. This reflects a 20 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2007 and 2012.

ALA product sales, expected to have increased from 2007 to 2008, will flatten and then decrease over the next three years.

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