Special edition: Omega-3

Whole Foods Market: We’re still making up our minds on krill

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Krill oil, Omega-3 fatty acid

Whole Foods Market: We’re still making up our minds on krill
Whole Foods Market (WFM) says it still needs more time to evaluate its position on the sustainability of krill oil, more than 15 months after announcing plans to stop selling it while bosses reviewed the evidence.

When it announced its controversial decision last May, the retailer said it was concerned that krill fishing could threaten the food supply of predators such as penguins, seals and whales, but hinted it might review its position as it continued to “evaluate this emerging research”.

However, when asked where things stood this week, a spokeswoman said it had “not yet had the opportunity​” to review the evidence yet.

Regarding the sustainability of krill and other fish species used for nutritional supplements, we have not yet had the opportunity to fully review the marine oil supplement category, as it entails a complex set of questions that we are continuing to research.”

She added: “In the meantime, we offer a wide variety of products delivering omega-3 fatty acids from which to choose, including fish oil, flax seed oil and algae-based dietary supplements.”

Azantis: ‘They do not have anything to base it on’

Mickey Schuett, director of sales at Colorado-based Azantis, told NutraIngredients-USA he was “dumbfounded​” by WFM’s stance.

He added: “They do not have anything to base it on. But I have to be hopeful they will change their minds because if they evaluate this on the basis of the facts that are out there, they will find there is not an issue.”

Both Azantis and a customer that used its krill oil in a supplement that had been on sale in WFM had written to the retailer trying to tackle the issue, but had received no response, he said.

“Our customer has also tried to set up several meetings, without success.I’m willing to fly down to Austin ​[WFM HQ in Texas]. We just want to get in front of them and talk it over.”

Neptune Technologies: All players would benefit from a change of stance at WFM …

Neptune Technologies & Bioressources said that some of its customers had been selling products at WFM prior to the ban and that it was optimistic that the retailer would change its stance after reviewing the evidence.

Bosses at Neptune would also welcome the opportunity to discuss recent data on the environmental impact of krill harvesting with WFM, said marketing manager Caroline Gauthier.

We didn’t see a huge impact on our sales but as WFM is a key player and has an important share of the specialty retail channel, all players in the industry would benefit from a stance change.”

Consumers would also benefit, she added: “Consumers are becoming more aware of krill oil benefits and are probably disappointed to shop at WFM and realize that they don’t carry any krill oil products.

“Krill oil is the fastest growing product in the omega-3 segment and WFM certainly is not taking advantage or benefiting from this sustainable trend, not to mention that Krill oil contributes to an increased basket value as it is sold at a premium price.”

NSF International, an independent, not-for-profit organization engaged to verify Neptune’s environmental claims, concluded in May that Neptune only used krill captured by fisheries following Antarctic Treaty rules and that it respected the annual capture quota of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), she said.

NSF had also noted that Neptune obtained krill from fisheries that use only mid-water trawl, which reduces the impact on other species as by-catch, and that its krill oils were alternative sources of marine omega-3 that reduced the pressure on fish populations, she said.

Aker Biomarine: “we’re trying to engage in a dialogue with all retailers and brands’

Aker BioMarine executive vice president, sales and marketing, Matts Johansen, said his firm was “trying to engage in a dialogue with all the retailers and brands” ​on sustainability issues.

As part of this, Aker was “providing them with all the data available on sustainability and all the details about our MSC certification” ​and in turn seeking “their feedback on what other requirements they might have for a sustainable fishery, allowing us to even further improve our sustainability practices”, ​he added.

GOED: We must educate consumers about what steps have been taken

In an interview with our sister title NutraIngredients.com earlier this week, Johansen said the health of the krill biomass, the impact of krill harvesting on other species and its impact on the ecosystem was closely monitored by the industry and independent observers.

Adam Ismail from global omega-3 EPA and DHA organization GOED, said: "As many scientists have noted, today's catch of Antarctic krill is sustainable even by the most cautious measures of sustainability, and in fact this is being recognized by independent third-party certification groups now.

"So the situation is actually very positive, and we know there is a lot to do around getting this message out and making this research known, just like with other sustainable marine resources. We do hope that retailers, consumers and other leading health advocates recognize this.

"The key question with krill is that going forward as the industry grows, how do you know when you have reached the sustainable limit for the fishery and the other species that depend on it? This research is ongoing by leading academics in the field and in fact is being supported by industry. No doubt, we will understand much more about this fishery in the coming years and the players in today's krill industry will make sure that they have a sustainable source of supply going forward."

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