The custards - in pomegranate, passion fruit and mango - can be used in a wide range of products such as yogurts, baby formulas, cereals and power bars. They are said to have neither the smell nor the taste of a marine-derived product.
VP R&D and business development Tina Sampalis told NutraIngredients-USA.com that the custards were developed using Terepia's technology. She was unable to disclose details of this for confidentiality reasons, but did say that it is not microencapsulation.
She said that the custard:NKO is a "nice ratio, as every tablespoon brings the whole daily dose of NKO [300mg]"
Custard was deemed to be an ideal carrier, since it does not affect the stability of the ingredient. Moreover the custard element contains natural fruits, and no added preservatives, sugar or artificial flavors.
Neptune and Terepia will be jointly marketing the custards to the industry following the official trade launch at Natural Products Expo West later this month. They will also seek a distributor to market the custards for retail, so that consumers can add a spoonful to foods as they wish.
"We are very proud to achieve our first and most important milstone for our entry in the functional food market," said president and CEO Henri Hartland. "This is only the first of many more goals ahead of us; however this breakthrough makes us even more confident that we will successfully reach our future targets."
Neptune announced plans to enter the functional foods market just last November.
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.
The company also entered the European market at the end of last year, and the NKO-containing custards will receive their European launch at Vitafoods in Geneva in May. Sampalis said that she expects Europe to be a more receptive market to NKO functional foods than the US, since consumers are more prone to eating functional foods than to taking soft gels.
That said, the US market is also showing signs that consumers are starting to take on board the potential benefits of including functional foods in their diet. NKO foods are expected to be particularly well received by people who may be unable or unwilling to take a soft gel, such as children and seniors.
The global market is estimated to be worth around $60bn and is expected to grow by eight to ten percent in the coming year.