Educating consumers on omega-3 benefits, and reminding them of those, remains challenge, event attendees told

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Educating consumers on omega-3 benefits, and reminding them of those, remains challenge, event attendees told

Related tags Marketing Adam ismail

Educating consumers on the benefits of omega-3s and keeping those benefits forefront in their minds as they make buying decisions remains one of the principal challenges of the market, experts told attendees on a NutraIngredients-USA webinar that ran live yesterday.

The webinar, which can be listened to on demand here​, covered a wide range of topics of interest to players in the sector, including market forces, consumer perceptions and the like.

The speakers were: Adam Ismail, executive director of GOED; Sam Wiley, CEO of Wiley’s Finest; Bill Harris, PhD, professor of medicine at University of South Dakota and president of omega-3s testing firm OmegaQuant Analytics; and Jon Clinthorne, PhD, manager of scientific affairs and nutrition education for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.

Sizing the market

Ismail led things off by taking a look at how the market is shaping up.  GOED does a lot of compiling of sales data, and recently brought a data function in-house. He offered the organization’s look at the market with a big caveat:  GOED is not primarily a market research organization.  There are now so many research firms out there competing to offer market reports that there is a wide divergence in how these companies size the various markets they compete in, and the omega-3s market is no different in this regard.  After all, they can’t all say the same thing and still differentiate themselves, which leads some reports to be clear outliers.

“We don’t do predictions,” ​Ismail said.“We think each brand should take a look at the data and make their own judgments.

With that being said, Ismail said it seems as if the global market has returned to a modest growth rate of somewhere in the 2% to 3% range.  The US market, which saw actual declines a couple of years ago, seems to have returned to growth, Ismail said, though it is only about 1% to 2%. The market for omega-3s in Europe is stagnant, he said, which leaves Asia/Pacific as the primary growth driver.

Keeping omega-3s in the forefront

Several years ago GOED ran a national ad campaign to remind consumers of benefits of omega-3s.  Ismail said that campaign was successful, though its impact was limited by its small scope.  Companies contributed to the effort, but not enough to launch a campaign on the scale of the “Got Milk?” campaign that everyone seems to point to as a successful example of how to boost an entire category.

Omega-3 softgels © Kagenmi
© iStock/Kagenmi

But Ismail said an important insight came out of that process:  The soft patch the market ran into was not caused primarily by some negative headlines questioning the efficacy of omega-3s.  It was more a matter of consumers not being regularly reinforced about the benefits of omega-3s, so these products were not on their minds when they went to the store.

Wiley, whose company works with retail outlets on how to communicate to consumers about the benefits of its ‘Wild Alaskan’ line of omega-3s sourced form Alaskan pollock, concurred. “The primary way we see consumers drop out of the category is that they simply forgot to buy the product again when they ran out,” ​he said.

Along with Wiley and Ismail, Clinthorne weighed in with what his company sees when talking with consumers about omega-3s.  Natural Grocers, which devotes a significant amount of its store square footage to stocking dietary supplements, has a commitment to have a nutrition educator associated  with every one of its more than 140 stores, which are located mostly in teh western U.S.

In addition to the education piece, Harris detailed some of the most recent research on omega-3s.  That included an interesting study on NFL players, following four groups of players  (three with variable dosages and a placebo group) through a season and measuring blood markers for brain trauma, which is a huge issue for the league and the sport in general. While the study design has obvious shortcomings (the potential for brain trauma varies by position, by a player’s actual game time, etc.) the results were intriguing and worthy of further research, Harris said.

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