When it announced its controversial decision to stop selling krill oil products in 2010, the retailer cited environmental concerns, notably that krill fishing might threaten the food supply of predators such as penguins, seals and whales.
However, it hinted it might review its position as it conducted a probe into sustainability issues across the marine ingredients category.
‘We are aware that the MSC has certified some producers of krill oil ‘
However, when asked where things stood this week, WFM said it was aware that an independent third party - the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - had certified some producers.
But a spokeswoman added: “Whole Foods Market does not currently sell krill oil supplements because we have not had any indication of meaningful demand for them, given the wide range of products we already have delivering omega-3 fatty acids including fish oil, flaxseed oil, and algae-based dietary supplements.”
When asked to clarify whether WFM had changed its mind about the sustainability of krill, she added:
“We are aware that the Marine Stewardship Council has certified some producers of krill oil, however, that doesn’t change the fact that we don’t see meaningful demand right now.”
Aker BioMarine: No demand? Krill supplements sales were up nearly 70% in 2011
The retailer’s comments surprised krill industry sources contacted by NutraIngredients-USA, which said they were seeing strong demand across the board.
Eric Anderson, VP sales & marketing at Aker BioMarine Antarctic US, Inc. said: "The latest data show that Krill supplements grew nearly 70% in 2011, with most of the growth realized in the food, drug, mass and club store channel.
“In the same time period, other omega-3 sources in that channel only grew on average about 5%, well off the double-digit growth of the last 10 years.
“Clearly krill supplements are addressing an unmet need for consumers that want omega-3 supplements but do not choose fish oil and / or vegetable oils alone to meet their needs.
“So why is krill growing so significantly? It certainly is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids in the highly bio-efficient phospholipid form. We believe that an important part of the growth is due to the enhanced user experience, with consumers reporting a high level of digestive comfort with krill supplements as well as a lack of repeating (fishy-burps).
“These consumers also profess to like the smaller, easier to swallow capsules. Plus, the awareness of the beneficial phospholipids and astaxanthin content of krill is also helping to build growth."
As regards sustainability, he added: “It seems that some natural products retailers have softened their stance on concerns about sustainability. Presently, Aker BioMarine has the only krill harvesting operation certified by the Marine Stewardship Counsel (MSC), the leading Eco-Label, based on the health of the stock, the environmental impact of the fishery, and 100% traceability throughout the value chain.
“Aker also works closely with WWF-Norway to ensure the best practices in our fishery. And we have an ongoing research project with MRAG, the leading consulting company committed to sustainable resource management.
“Given these important validations, in addition to our demonstrated ongoing commitment to research on krill populations and human research for therapeutic benefits, we hope consumers in all channels of trade will have access to Superba Krill Oil.”
Neptune: If Walmart, Costco, Target and Walgreens think krill is worth shelf space…
Michael Timperio, VP global business development at Neptune Technologies & Bioressources, said: “When the Wal-Marts, Costcos, Targets and Walgreens of the world are listing a product, one has to believe that the market has reached a healthy and significant level of awareness.
“Whole Foods is a very high profile heath food retail group, with a highly desirable reputation for any company caring about delivering wellness to the consumer. We can only be hopeful that Whole Foods will offer krill oil in the near future.”
Dr Wael Massrieh, VP scientific affairs at Neptune added: “An independent omega-3 market report published by Frost & Sullivan reported that the krill oil market has already captured over 2% of total omega-3 B2B sales and is expected to increase to 5% over the next three years.”
Azantis: We do not agree with their assessment
Mickey Schuett, director of sales at Colorado-based biotech company Azantis, said he was also surprised to hear that WFM felt there was no demand for krill oil, given that it “is one of the fastest growing omega-3 products in the world”.
He added: "We do not agree with the assessment they have come up with. Someone at Whole Foods just does not want krill in their stores."