Dispatches from Vitafoods Europe

Blackmores: We wanted to see krill sustainability with our own eyes

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Krill, Antarctica

Blackmores, the leading supplement brand in Australia, has taken the unusual step of sending a company representative on a two week-long trip to verify the sustainability practices of Aker BioMarine, the world’s largest harvester of krill used to supply krill oil for omega-3 supplements. A major shift in the worldwide omega-3s supply picture provided the impetus for this major undertaking, said Richard Henfrey,  Blackmores chief operating officer.

Henfrey, in speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent VitaFoods trade show in Geneva, Switzerland, said a shift has occurred in what’s driving the utilization of oceanic resources. Omega-3s used to be almost exclusively a side stream product, with the demand for fish flesh and meal being the prime driver about how fishing operations are conducted. But now omega-3s demand is becoming a prime driver in how these decisions are made, so it is increasingly incumbent on companies that sell a lot of omega-3 supplements, like Blackmores, to have their sustainability talking points in order.

Sustainability leader

Aker has been a leader in developing the sustainability bona fides of the Antarctic krill fishery.  Measured  against other fisheries, like the Peruvian anchovy fishery, the krill fishery is in its infancy, with only a very low percentage of the total theoretical available biomass being harvested each season. Even so ecological activists have been concerned because krill form a key part of the food chain in the Southern Ocean and it has been said that almost all of the animal life around Antarctica either feeds on krill directly or feeds on something that does. Aker has supported research to understand better the seasonal and year-to-year fluctuations in the overall population and how the amount that is currently being harvested, while low in an overall sense, could still have significant impacts on predators if a given harvesting area were to be inadvertently depleted.

 Aker has achieved a number of sustainability kudos, including becoming the only krill oil supplier to have Marine Stewardship Certification and being recognized by the World Wildlife Fund.  Yet Blackmores felt it necessary to see all of that in person, Henfrey said.

“I think it’s important to see that with your own eyes and verify that and have than integrity in our own consumer marketing,​” Henfrey said.

While consumers say they care about sustainability, it’s not something they’re willing to pay much of a premium for, said Henfrey.  Nevertheless, verifying the company’s supply chains is a key part of the corporate mission, he said.

“Blackmores as a company cares about sustainability. It’s deep in our culture,”​ he said.

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