Omega-3s & Algae: Lessons from 2016’s special editions

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock/Tamara Kulikova
Photo: iStock/Tamara Kulikova
We learned that natural channel retailers are getting bored with plain old fish oil, and that there is still a lot of untapped potential in sourcing everything from omega-3s to protein to color from algae. Our in-depth coverage this year explored what’s next for omega-3 sourcing and delivery, as well as what else algae can be used for. This is part of a series of our special edition roundups for 2016.

April: Omega-3s

The fatty acids have established themselves as a star player in the nutritional ingredients segment. This success has led to significant consolidation in the industry. The science is also growing almost exponentially with omega-3s being linked to an ever increasing number of health conditions.

It hasn't all be plain sailing for omega-3s, with reports of declining sales following negative media reports of select studies. However, data from SPINS indicated that sales of fish oil concentrates were ups 3.2% in the 52 weeks ending on March 20,2016, suggesting that after a bleak couple of years, omega-3 sales are back in the black​.

Depsite the slight uptick in fish oil sales, we learned from Sam Wiley, CEO of Wiley’s Finest, that natural channel retail buyers are pretty bored with fish oil​. Manufacturers are encouraged to innovate in other delivery formats.

“There is a lot of potential for concentrates because we can drive compliance through smaller pills and we can start to combine that with other ingredients more effectively,” ​said NBTY’s Dr. Matthew Roberts.

August: The infinite potential of algae

The potential for algae-based ingredients is still largely untapped. According to Mark Edwards, a long-time expert of the field and emeritus agribusiness professor at Arizona State University, algae companies have a habit of over promising and under delivering.

But he thinks there’s still a lot of promise​—in the next decade, he forecasts algae-based medicines to replace many of the 80% of medicines currently derived from plants and animals, and that algae-based nutrients will become the primary input source for functional foods.

One example is spirulina, which is emerging as a protein source​ as more Americans look for meat alternatives. Today, the global B2B market for spirulina is valued at $50-$60 million. TerraVia, formerly known as Solazyme, is also striving to change the game by introducing algae-based nutrients into more household name foods​, though it recently suspended its supplies to Soylent​ because of the latter’s ‘rush of judgment over recall.’

At this year’s IFT in the summer, TerraVia showcased its first consumer brand in the food arena called Thrive Culinary Algae Oil. CEO John Wolfson said that here’s no doubt that having a consumer-facing brand helps to bring industrial ingredients to life, but after a successful launch on the west coast, it quickly became clear to him that Thrive was doing more than that.

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