Omega-3s in the form of fish oil is just about the oldest dietary ingredient there is, with records of the sale of cod liver oil going back more than 200 years. The category got a big boost with epidemiological evidence of the effects of fish oil stemming from work done with ethnic Greenlanders in the 1970s.
After the founding of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) the quality foundations of the category were secured. The agreement that led to the founding of GOED included consensus on a base specification and minimum quality parameters, so that consumers could be assured that if they bought a fish oil supplement they were getting what they paid for.
Thick ream of research
GOED’s history has been a roadmap for other organizations in the industry, but its success has been hard to duplicate. One of the things that underpins the whole category—and by extension GOED—is the thick ream of research that supports the benefits of these ingredients.
Those benefits were given another dose of official recognition with the approval this week by the US Food and Drug Administration of qualified health claims relating to omega-3s and their ability to keep blood pressure within a healthy range. This adds on to omega-3's cardioprotective benefits.
Those cardioprotective benefits drove an amazing surge in the category. Fish oil supplements enjoyed a decade or more of double digit market growth. Then came a soft spot in the market caused in part by the release of some equivocal results from large scale trials.
The decline was attributed in part also to a lack of supporting advertising on the part of omega-3s companies, according to former GOED executive director Adam Ismail. The sector seemed to have started to rest on its laurels, so to speak, and even with all of its supporting research, when consumers where not consistently reminded via messaging of the benefits of the ingredients, they started to fall out of the buying habit.
Now that the market has recovered somewhat there are signs that it is reaching a state of maturity. While sales have ramped back up, it appears the days of double digit growth are gone from good.
Mature markets are associated with quiescent markets—ones that tend to become commoditized. Companies within them tend to start focusing on things like finding the best raw material prices and driving efficiencies in an era of diminishing margins. There is the appearance of not a lot of news in there, in other words.
Reminder that there are still things happening in market
But the approval of the blood pressure claims, an effort that was more than five years in the making, shows that even in mature markets there are things happening that the industry needs to know about.
To redress that balance I will be hosting an online discussion of the omega-3s category at 9:30 AM Central time on Tuesday, July 2. We’ll delve into some of the legal questions surrounding the category, such as Amarin’s vigorous defense of its drug turf. We’ll look at how the market is doing and what new indications are being uncovered from the research. For more information or to register, see the link below.
Free omega-3 webinar
Join experts from Wiley's Finest, the Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s, OmegaQuant, and Amin Talati Wasserman for a dive deep into the omega-3 waters to explore the supply chain, quality standards, innovative new forms and products, the state of the science, and how the industry feels moving forward.
For more information and to register for FREE, please click HERE.