More Norwegian oil in omega 3 products

The market for omega 3 products has increased markedly over the past few years. However, although Norwegian producers are among the world's leading suppliers of fish oils, oils from Norwegian raw materials have not seen the same positive development.

The omega 3 market, in particular the health food market, focuses the most on the amount of omega 3 in the oil, and this is what’s used as a sales and marketing argument. The original raw material for most of the health food market comes from South America and northern Africa, because of the high content in omega 3 fatty acids. These oils have then been preferred to Norwegian oils for refining and increasing the concentration of omega 3 fatty acids.

“There is no doubt a large market potential for Norwegian fish oils suppliers, but the market poses strict conditions. Current off-cuts and viscera from the fish farming industry have an acceptable fatty acid composition regarding EPA and DHA content, but sometimes special feeding regimes are necessary in order to obtain even better fatty acid compositions for certain end markets. Norwegian raw materials producers will benefit from closer cooperation, both between themselves and along the entire value chain,” says Gjermund Vogt of Nofima Mat.

Differentiation
A pilot project was carried out by the RUBIN foundation focusing on whether freshness or low degree of oxidation could be a potential differential strategy for oils produced from Norwegian raw materials. The project has looked at new opportunities for oils based on Norwegian raw materials within an industry sector which is currently experiencing great success, and which delivers healthy omega 3 products that are in great demand in an increasingly growing global market.

Functional foods enriched in omega 3 and alternative supply forms to capsules are less dependent on a high omega 3 content, but also pose stricter requirements to smell and taste. For both of these conditions, fresh marine raw materials are at an advantage. In addition, this market is less price sensitive than the market for traditional omega 3 oils, and a strong increase in the demand for such products is expected in the years ahead.

Freshness a competitive advantage
International publications and some media stories have claimed that oxidised polyunsaturated fatty acids or oxidative products can have detrimental health effects. However, very little research has been carried out to document the effect of oxidised oils on human health.

It has been shown that oils that have been gently produced from fresh raw materials are more resistant to oxidation than oils made from raw materials of poorer quality. However, it is not known to what extent the original quality of the raw oil has an effect on the degree of oxidation in the body (in vivo) and whether there is any connection between the oxidation degree of the refined oil and any potential detrimental health effects.

If positive effects on health were documented, this would be an advantage for oils based on fresh Norwegian raw materials. The development of analysis parameters, standards and documentation of positive health benefits as well as implementing a grading system for oils based on degree of oxidation would open up a large market for Norwegian high quality oils in supplements and associated market segments.

Mapping omega 3
“We don’t know enough today about the oil quality of various omega 3 products, but the variation is expected to be large. We have therefore hired MA student Trine Torkildsen to map omega 3 products available on the Norwegian market, both supplements and functional foods enriched with omega 3. She will also map the oil quality regarding fatty acid composition and degree of oxidation,” concludes Vogt.

The report was prepared by Altavida and Nofima and presents available knowledge on lipid oxidation and health benefits as well as an overview of the market potential for fish oils based on fresh Norwegian raw materials. Further, the report outlines possible strategies in documenting health benefits. A total potential value increase from added sales, increased prices and new businesses of NOK 300-350 million annually has been estimated.
The report is available (in Norwegian only) at http://www.rubin.no.

Food and health   Raw materials and process optimisation  

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