“We are encouraged by these numbers because it signifies reinvigorated growth in the natural channel," said Eric Anderson, VP of global marketing for Aker BioMarine.
This growth is significant, as krill products have been hampered in the natural channel ever since Whole Foods Markets made the decision to take them off the shelves over sustainability concerns. Aker, which in addition to marketing its Superba Krill Oil ingredient also brings in more of the world’s harvest via its brace of boats, has led the charge to convince markets of krill’s sustainability bona fides. Aker is the only krill harvester certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
The most recent word from the usually tight-lipped Whole Foods is that sustainability is no longer its prime concern, but that krill supplements would remain off the shelves because the company says there is insufficient demand.
Schiff product rules the roost
Krill has already become a huge player in the food drug and mass channel. Schiff Nutrition’s MegaRed line, which features Aker’s Supera Krill Oil ingredient, are the biggest selling omega-3s SKU in the channel and overall. Aker said the sales of krill supplements grew 70% in the last year in FDM space, and now account for 12% of omega-3s sales in that channel.
Much of that growth has been driven by Schiff’s effective and voluminous advertising. It’s a promotional effort that has not been matched at the same scale in the natural channel, Anderson said. But Schiff's push seems to be a tide that is lifting all krill boats, regardless of channel.
“I think that there is no natural products marketing company really putting a big press on krill supplements today,” he said.
Science continues to pile up
The krill sector was pioneered by Canadian supplier Neptune Technologies and Bioressources, which did some of the early scientific work and has new studies in the works. Aker, for its part, has continued to build out the ingredient-specific science, with in vitro, in vivo and human clinical trials with phospholipid EPA and DHA from krill oil, that the company says demonstrate a higher uptake of phospholipid omega-3 fatty acids, improved blood lipid profiles, and increased uptake of DHA in brain tissue compared to other omega-3 fatty acid sources.
In addition to the messages that emanate from the scientific results, there is the matter of consumer preference. The phospholipid backbone of the ingredient forms a natural emulsion, which many consumers say makes the ingredient more digestible. Hence, no “fishy burps.” And the greater bioavailability means one small pill to swallow a day, as opposed to several large ones.
Krill’s many advantages don’t always come across when sales staff in the natural channel stores communicate with customers, Anderson said. So, while the growth has been heartening in the channel, it has room to improve.
“What we need to do to over the next 5 years is to educate the natural retailers,” Anderson said.