The companies said in a joint statement that the alliance “adds strategic value for both companies through each company’s leading dietary products addressing wellness needs in joint and digestive health.”
“Ahiflower oil continues to proliferate rapidly in dietary supplements in North America, so we truly appreciate the added sales and customer support that Stratum brings to the forefront, while we develop novel product formulations utilizing each company’s proprietary ingredients,” said Andrew Hebard, founder and CEO of Natures Crops International.
Stratum Nutrition will initially represent Ahiflower oil supply to new clients in human dietary supplement markets in North America (USA, Canada, Mexico). Existing end user brands that have been supplied by Natures Crops will continue to be supported directly by Natures Crops.
Building scientific evidence, but a challenge in building awareness
The omega-3 oil, which derives from the species Buglossoides arvensis, is a relatively new entrant to the omega-3 oil space.
It received an FDA no-objections letter for its GRAS status in 2015. Scientific evidence of the ingredient’s health benefits have been building up, with one study published in 2016 providing evidence of Ahiflower oil’s potential in accruing omega-3 EPA up to four times higher than flaxseed oil, due to the plant's high stearidonic acid (SDA) content, a precursor of EPA that is a metabolic step closer than is ALA, the omega-3 found in flaxseed oil. And a more recent study supported the ingredient’s immunoregulation and anti-inflammation properties.
As a plant-based oil, it taps into the burgeoning trend for plant-based products among US consumers.
“Each quarter since launching Ahiflower in the spring of 2015, we have seen good growth, both with new brand partner products coming to market and existing products seeing increased consumer uptake,” Hebard told NutraIngredients-USA.
“We have nearly 30 licensed brands in a growing portfolio that includes Genesis Today, Jarrow, Greens First, Clean Machine, MHP, and Natural Traditions.”
But Hebard said creating consumer awareness and interest is especially challenging, given that the omega-3 category is one that he sees as “highly fragmented” with “unnecessarily, overly-complex messaging.”
“Most people have heard of omegas, most people know they are good for you, but only a very few understand the different sources and different types—and yet most people are omega-3 deficient.”
Simplifying communications, adding more delivery formats
Natures Crops International has been developing food and ingredient formulations in an effort to significantly broaden Ahiflower oil’s usage, including powders, emulsions, and culinary oil blends, Hebard said.
“The trend towards enriching food products with natural, functional ingredients is a good growth area for us. Marine and algal lipids can have limitations on cost, smell, taste and rancidity when incorporated into food,” he added.
“Ahiflower is closer to olive oil in taste than fish oil, and being vegan, has wide and diverse application opportunities. This spring or summer, culinary oils and emulsions that include Ahiflower oil will be available for customers who are interested in getting their daily dose of omegas by incorporating just one spoonful into their favorite daily recipes.”
In addition to product development, the company will ramp up clinical trials with the support of its new partnership with Stratum Nutrition. “Our focus has been on advancing human clinical trials and promoting Ahiflower as a vegan source of complete and balanced omegas to help you move well, feel well, look well,” Hebard added.
“There is clearly a disconnect between awareness and consumption and I think this is a marketing challenge. Our belief is that many consumers find all the acronyms and terminology that has been introduced into the omega-3 space as confusing and dull. They prefer a simple message — ‘safe, effective, sustainable, and pleasant to take.’”