Martek joins pregnancy group to promote DHA omega-3

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Docosahexaenoic acid, Omega-3 fatty acid

Omega-3 supplier Martek Biosciences has teamed up with a leading US pregnancy and infant health organization to educate consumers about the importance of DHA for infant development.

Under the terms of the three-year agreement, Martek will provide funding to March of Dimes, which will be used for an educational program for consumers and health care professionals.

DHA – or Docosahexaenoic acid – is a long chain omega-3 essential fatty acid and is thought to support fetal brain and eye development during pregnancy. After the baby is born, DHA – consumed through breastfeeding or fortified infant formulas – is said to support mental, visual and motor skills development.

Maryland-based Martek is the leading supplier of DHA for infant formula. Its algae-sourced life’sDHA ingredient appears in around 95 percent of infant formula products sold in the United States.

No brand promotion

The company told NutraIngredints-USA.com that its new agreement with March of Dimes will involve a three year partnership “at minimum”.​ Funding provided by Martek will be used to develop and educational web page and educational print materials for consumers, as well as parallel materials aimed at health care professionals.

March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization, will not directly promote Martek’s DHA brand, but will aim to raise awareness of the ingredient in general, said the company’s Cassie France-Kelly.

“March of Dimes does not promote any brands, but does suggest that pregnant women get at least 200mg of DHA per day, and acknowledges that algal DHA in fortified foods and supplements is a viable source of this vital DHA,”​ she told NutraIngredients-USA.com.

“We will be working with March of Dimes throughout this partnership to jointly promote the importance of DHA to pregnant and breastfeeding women.”

Algal oils

Algal oil, which is a concentrated source of DHA and is used primarily for infant health (90 percent of total volumes) or cognitive benefits, currently accounts for 3 percent of the total omega-3 market (Frost & Sullivan).

The market for algal omega-3 is currently dominated by two firms: Martek Biosciences (US) and Lonza (EU). There are a number of smaller players trying to squeeze in, but they have a minor impact due to the network of patents that currently protect the market.

The algae are produced in Martek’s and Lonza’s factories, and then undergo an extraction and refining process. Algal-sourced omega-3 oils generally range from around 40-50 percent DHA.

Frost & Sullivan estimates the EU market for algal-sourced omega-3 is $56m, while the US market is $83m.

Prices in this market tend to remain relatively stable as there are only two major producers and prices tend to be set on a long-term contract basis. These are currently thought to range between $85 and $180 per kilo, depending on applications.

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