Consumer awareness of omega-3s remains strong as the supplement has been linked to supporting heart, health, vision, and brain health.
“It [omega-3] was probably the one fat that was put on a pedestal when all the other fats were considered ‘bad’ and that was always good for that particular category,” CoreFX CEO Denis Neville told NutraIngredients-USA.
However, as pill fatigue alongside negative taste associations of fish oil supplements set in over recent years, sales of fish-oil based omega-3s flattened out, motivating the industry to look into alternative sources.
According to Grandview Research, the global omega-3 market size was valued at US $2.04 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.6% through 2022. Fish oil and krill oil, which used to be the fastest growing sources of omega-3s, have now been outpaced by plant-based sources such as algae.
“The source of fish oil isn’t expandable so that has caused innovation; the real growth is happening on the non-fish oil sources.”
Algae has become one of the more well-known plant-based marine sources of omega-3s as its supply is considered more sustainable than sourcing from declining fish stocks with more application potential beyond capsules.
Holistic approach to omega fatty acids
Neville shared that while algae offers enormous potential for growing the omega-3 category, emphasis on a combination of fatty acids including omega-6 and omega-9 from lesser-known plant-based sources is essential to driving growth in the category.
One study found that a dietary combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is more efficient compared to single supplementation in the prevention of retinal damage.
“The reason why we expanded our reach is that consumers are looking for other alternatives and we want to push that rather than wait for market pull,” Neville said.
CoreFX has been working with flaxseed, hemp, borage, and evening primrose by converting the oils into stable powders, which all have nearly undetectable odors and taste profiles making them ideal for use in functional food and beverage products, according to Neville.
“The good thing about these sources is the applications are broader. You can use them in many food applications rather than just a supplement type product,” he said.
Borage oil and evening primrose oil are natural sources of GLA (gammalinolenic acid), an omega-6 fat with anti-inflammatory properties that is hard to come by in a typical diet.
“What we’re trying to do is create a holistic approach to omegas. What we’re really striving for is expandable sources of omega oils that are sustainable as well,” Neville added.