At the SupplySide West show in Las Vegas recently, we sat down with Ismail to take the pulse on the omega-3 industry, and covered the topics of its national campaign to keep omega-3s front of mind, ‘upgrading’ to concentrates and krill oil products, the impact of this year’s El Nino on the Peruvian anchovy fishery, and where we stand with the qualified health claim petition for blood pressure.
“I think it went as well as could be expected for the amount of money we raised,” said Ismail. “We didn’t quite reach our fundraising targets and so we were able to do an eight to ten weeks advertising campaign. We didn’t quite get the market back to positive growth territory, but right in the middle of the campaign we faced a pretty severe negative media event – a New York Times article that was questioning the benefits of omega-3s – so a lot of the energy from the campaign was absorbed by that.
“But I think that positively reinforcing the message does make a difference to consumers and it does keep omega-3s top of mind. The reality is that to do that on a continued basis we would need significantly larger budgets and with the way things are in the industry right now, that would be a challenging task.”
From a supply perspective, there are concerns that the Peruvian anchovy fishery could be closed, or at least have the quota reduced. The industry already had to deal with a closure of the fishery last year, when the Peruvian authorities recommended a three month closure based on low biomass readings.
“We’re waiting for the latest biomass assessment,” said Ismail. “What we’ve heard is that El Niño is having an effect on the fishery. It’s challenging to get an accurate measure of how much biomass is actually out there, but we’re waiting for the survey and that scientific survey will decide what the quota is.
Ismail also updated us on the state of play with its petition to the FDA for a qualified health claim for omega-3s and blood pressure.
“We’re still waiting for the FDA’s review. We’re optimistic that the evidence is convincing that EPA and DHA help maintain a healthy blood pressure,” he said. “It’s a very large body of evidence. There are more than 90 randomized controlled trials in here and they have go through every individual study. We’ve meta-analyzed it, and when you meta-analyze it you see a very clear effect. Meta-analyses tend to drive the effect out of a study, it’s actually very positive that you see it there because it’s much more likely that there is a real benefit.”