The company will expand capacity at its main production facility in Ålesund in Norway, increasing output by over 50% by 2021. Additionally, a new manufacturing facility nearby will provide raw materials for new and specialized marine ingredients.
Epax says a good chunk of the new investment will go toward research and development, including clinical studies on the benefits of innovative new marine ingredients in dietary supplements.
One recent study linked the firm’s Omega-3 oil supplements to enhanced neural blood flow, which could prevent memory decline.
Brain health opening new opportunities
Sarah Christianslund, Product Marketing Manager at Epax, told NutraIngredients-USA at SupplySide West that it’s a fascinating time for the industry. “It’s an extremely exciting area because it just really dips into healthy aging trend. That’s what we all worry about when we get older, because we can always replace a hip or a knee, but if your brain starts to deteriorate, then there’s not much left. So this is an exciting area, looking at how you can help your brain maintain its function through diet instead of waiting until it’s too late and trying to cope with medicine. So we’re going to continue to work on this matter and develop this. With our new facility we’re going to be looking into marine ingredients beyond just the EPA and DHA that we’ve done in the past.”
In addition to the healthy ageing category, Christianslund said she is also seeing an increased demand for Omega-3 in sports nutrition and condition-specific areas. “Working with Omega-3, since it’s part of your cell membrane, it affects so many aspects of your health, so we see a lot more companies going more specialized, which we like. Because in the old days Omega-3 was just general well-being, but what we’ve always done is condition-specific. So we were the first to start tailoring those EPA/DHA ratios and target joint health or cognition, or pre-and post-natal. There was strong growth in the pre- and post-natal, especially with the regulatory changes in Europe, where DHA is now required in infant nutrition.”
Epax has over 180 years in the business. In 1987, the firm invented the technology to concentrate fish oil as an ethyl ester. And at SupplySide West, Christianslund hinted that the company has some patents pending, but declined to elaborate.
New concentration technology
The recent investment will also allow for new technology Epax developed that will increase EPA and DHA concentration without triggering oxidation. The new distillation process will pave the way for gently processed products with concentration as high as 70% percentage by weight (compared to the current industry standard of 50wt%).
The mild nature of the next generation distillation process makes it a highly effective way to increase EPA and DHA content without creating unwanted by-products such as trans-fatty acids and polymers.
“Most of our by-products are returned back, and turned into feed for the agriculture industry. So our by-products become feed for the salmon, which becomes food for humans,” said Bjørn Refsum, CEO of Epax, who also spoke with NutraIngredients-USA at SupplySide West.
He said with so many resources, Epax will continue to expand over the coming years. “We are passionate about Omega-3s and Marine Omega-3s. EPA and DHA are essentially fatty acids, but it’s more than that and that’s what we’re working on. You have to go to the ocean to find them. We will develop new products based on the marine ingredients sector in the future. We have unlimited access to very interesting materials.”
EPAX has been acquired several times over the past decade. The company is currently owned by Norwegian fishing group Pelagia AS.
Sports Nutrition Summit
Influencers, the microbiome, protein, formulation challenges and opportunities, and female athletic consumers are just some of the topics that will take center stage at the NutraIngredients-USA Sports Nutrition Summit in San Diego, Feb 3-5, 2020.
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