The Global EPA and DHA Omega-3 Ingredient Market Report details the entire EPA and DHA omega-3 industry in the raw materials segment of the supply chain, which was a 115,031 metric ton (mT) market in 2021.
While volume increased 2.1% last year and the overall market grew 5.5% in value to US$1.53 billion, the market for EPA and DHA supplements, which comprises more than 50% of the overall market, grew slightly less, at 3.8% in value.
Ellen Schutt, executive director at GOED, explains that the slower growth is largely due to supply chain issues.
"Supply chain challenges continued to plague the market in 2021 — as is the case with the rest of the supplement and CPG industry — but long term, omega-3 demand is strong."
She says some of the driving forces in the supplements market are the high concentrate and plant-based products.
"In terms of sources, high concentrate products continue to be an important category and algal oils benefited from the availability of more capacity and the plant-based trend, growing 9% in value.”
The industry as a whole is projected to reach 121,266 metric tons by 2024 at an average annual growth rate of 1.8% globally.
GOED's annual report includes market figures for 14 omega-3 sources in 11 geographies and six end product applications (dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, infant formula, food and beverage, pet food and clinical nutrition). There are over 100 charts and tables detailing the volume and value of omega-3 sources, regions and end product applications in 2021, with forecasts through 2024.
Research has highlighted that DHA from fish origin could be at risk due to global warming. Scientists believe that an increase in water temperature could affect the de novo synthesis of DHA in the algae at the top of the food chain, causing it to drop. This reduction may, in turn, lead to a 10-58% loss of DHA available worldwide.
Increased health and environmental consumer awareness have led to increased investment by businesses in producing plant-based supplements and algal oil is one of the options.
One important aspect of GOED's works is the corroboration of new studies in this field. As such, the organisation launched its Clinical Study Database earlier this year - a specialised search tool including all interventional human studies on EPA and DHA, amounting to nearly 4,000 studies.
The database aims to provide the industry with opportunities to substantiate health and structure/function claims, rebut negative media articles and provide direction in product design and marketing.
It's a much-needed resource with this being an area which gains a huge amount of scientific attention.
Just last month, a study reported that higher DHA levels are associated with higher scores on some cognitive measures in healthy adolescents. Although Harry Rice, PhD, chief science officer at GOED, was cautious about the result.
He told NutraIngredients-USA: “While the results suggest that higher dietary DHA intake via fish as reflected by higher red blood cell DHA levels is associated with better attention performance in adolescents, it's important to keep in mind that this was a cross-sectional analysis of data collected for a study that was designed to better understand the role of plant-based omega-3 PUFA intake on consumption on neuropsychological development during adolescence. Thus said, the original study had nothing to do with DHA. That doesn't mean I'm dismissing the present results. I think they are intriguing and provide a reason to conduct future research, but they are far from conclusive, particularly given past mixed results looking at the benefits of DHA (and EPA) on attention.”
Perhaps more powerful, is a recent comprehensive meta-analysis of 131 trials which provided credence to the positive impact of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) on high blood pressure (BP).
The study report concluding: “There is sufficient evidence for n-3 PUFAs to elicit helpful effects on blood pressure. Consequently, supplementation with n-3 PUFAs may be a useful adjuvant therapy in hypertensive patients.”
Dr Rice says this meta-analysis provides important “corroborating evidence that strengthens an existing strong body of scientific evidence can't be discounted”.