Algae products brand iWi lands Sam's Club distribution deal

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

The raw material for the iWi line of products is grown at two locations, one in West Texas, the other in southern New Mexico.  iWi photo.
The raw material for the iWi line of products is grown at two locations, one in West Texas, the other in southern New Mexico. iWi photo.

Related tags Algae omega-3

Algae products manufacturer iWi has landed a deal with Sam’s Club that will greatly expand distribution of the company’s signature products based on omega-3s bound to polar lipids produced by a proprietary algal strain.

The iWi brand (pronounced eee-wee) takes its name from a Maori word meaning “tribe.” The moniker is meant to convey the idea that humans are all one tribe and companies in the nutrition space need to work toward a more sustainable future. 

The brand has been developed by Qualitas Health, which grows its algae at two locations in the deserts of West Texas and southern New Mexico.

“What we are offering is a sustainably farmed, non GMO, vegan form of omega-3s,”​ said Miguel Calatayud, CEO of iWi.

The base ingredient, called Almega PL, has been researched for its unique polar lipid content, which is a blend of phospholipids and glycolipids. This underpins the brand’s claims of higher bioavailability. The company points to research it has conducted head to head against krill oil that it claims shows its ingredient is more readily absorbed. 

Qualitas now has algae farms operating in Columbus, NM and Imperial, TX. Both have similar attributes of access to brackish groundwater, unsuitable for other agricultural operations, and abundant sunshine. Qualitas was based first in Israel and later moved its headquarters to Houston. The first farm was the West Texas location, but flooding issues and other production problems there awoke the company to the need for backup production. 

Experienced partners pair up 

Calatayud was brought on in the wake of the 2015 flooding disaster that saw a major overhaul of the company’s management. Last year, Qualitas partnered with commercial crop producers Green Stream Farms to expand to the New Mexico location, which was previously run by algae company Sapphire Energy. 

“When I took over two years ago, taking products into retail was the strategy I laid out,”​ Calatayud told NutraIngredients-USA. “I have always been in retail. I used to oversee the production of 700 million pounds of vegetables that were sold in retail outlets.”​ 

Retail strategy bearing fruit

The company launched the iWi brand earlier this year, and has seen rapid success with the retail strategy. Calatayud said the company’s products are already in Sprouts, Vitamin Shoppe and Meyers stores. With the Sam’s Club deal, the company will now have products in an additional 600 locations.

iWi Omega-3 Daily Support

The Sam’s Club development also marks a differentiation in the company’s product line. The products in the Sam’s Club outlets will feature a lower concentration of Almega PL, to match that chain’s budget price positioning. Calatayud said the products will be on the shelves starting Sept. 1.

“This gives us the opportunity to offer high quality omega-3s to everyone,”​ Calatayud said. “But some consumers are not willing to pay a higher price for high potency products.”

Calatayud said the company is bringing new distribution online almost weekly. As that revenue ramps up, it will support new products from the base algae strain that will include new proteins to launch starting in 2019, he said.

“These will appear in bars, healthy snacks and protein shakes. Our purpose is together we can create sustainable food solutions for everyone on our planet,” ​he said.

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