Strong sales reflect non-US interest in DHA, says Martek

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Infant formula Docosahexaenoic acid Martek

Omega-3 supplier Martek Biosciences has reported a strong performance in the first quarter, indicating a growing interest in DHA despite the tight economy.

The company said sales for the three months ended January 31 2009 were up 7 percent over last year to $84m, boosted particularly by infant formula customers outside the US.

Martek is the dominant omega-3 supplier to the infant formula industry in North America and Europe and in recent years has seen its life’sDHA (docosahexaenoic acid) proprietary ingredient taken up beyond the infant formula market, incorporated in a broad range of food categories from dairy to bakery.

More R&D

The company said revenues for the first quarter were $87m, up 5 percent from $83m in the first quarter of 2008. Net income came in at just under $10m, compared with $8.7m last year.

The first quarter also saw the company spend more on research and development – just under $7m, an increase of 13 percent since last year. Market said it is focusing its R&D efforts on broadening its product range, improving its production efficiencies and the versatility of its oils, as well as further investing in science to back the health benefits of its life’sDHA ingredient.

"Despite the troubling economy, Martek's first quarter results showed both revenue and bottom line growth reflecting the strength of our core infant formula business, growing consumer awareness of the health benefits of DHA beyond infant formula markets and the continued execution of our business plan,”​ said the firm’s CEO Steve Dubin.

Health claim rejected, for now

However, despite market interest in Martek’s DHA for infant formula, the ingredient recently received a slight setback, following the rejection of a proposed health claim by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Martek had submitted an Article 14 claim for review under Europe’s new health claims regulations relating infant brain and eye development with DHA (omega-3) and ARA (omega-6) consumption.

At the end of last year, however, EFSA added Martek’s claim to its long list of rejections. EFSA rejected the majority of Martek’s science because it deemed it irrelevant to the age period of the submitted health claim, which was between the ages of six months and three years.

In response, a Martek spokesperson told it was disappointed with the verdict but would pursue a claim relating to visual benefits in infants aged 6-12 months that have been breast fed until the age of 4-6 months.

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