Consumers on omega-3: key obstacles remaining

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Two of the biggest challenges still facing omega-3 acceptance in the United States are a lack of clear knowledge of its benefits and a perception that it brings a bad taste to food products, according to Frost & Sullivan.

These point to an urgent need for more efforts in taste R&D and consumer education in order to maximize uptake of the ingredient, which otherwise remains one of the most sought-after nutraceuticals, said the market researcher.

According to the group’s latest omega-3 report, published earlier this year, 56 percent of American consumers still only have a vague understanding of the ingredient. Consumer understanding of plant sources of omega-3 is particularly lacking, says Frost & Sullivan.

When it comes to the taste of fortified products, the majority of Americans believe that adding omega-3 to a food will change its taste, odor and texture. This does not stop people from consuming the products, but they tend to opt for more ‘palatable’ forms (such as eggs and dairy) as they place a higher priority on taste than on nutritional value.

“Although the level of awareness about omega-3 is considered high, the majority of consumers lack clear knowledge about the health benefits of omega-3. In addition, there is a strong perception about the orgnoleptic properties of omega-3 fortified food products,”​ writes the researcher in 2010 US Consumers’ Choice: Omega-3 Nutrient Products.

“This indicates the need for concerted efforts form manufacturers and other industry participants that are aimed at aggressive consumer education. It also indicates the need for ingredient and food manufacturers to focus on developing omega-3 fortified products with superior taste profile.”

Opportunity – not threat

However, despite these stumbling blocks, F&S suggests that there is strong potential for further growth in the market.

The low levels of awareness about algal sources of omega-3 can be put down to the fact that its use is currently concentrated in one specific application: Infant nutrition.

“The level of awareness is expected to increase with the widening application profile of algal omega-3,”​ says the researcher.

In addition, consumer purchasing patterns are indicating that marine oils will continue to be popular, with F&S expecting demand to increase particularly for fish oil supplements and dairy products fortified with omega-3.

Tomorrow, NutraIngredients-USA.com will take a closer look at which omega-3 product categories are preferred by US consumers, the brands they most recognize and the health beliefs that prompt purchases.

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