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Sea Change

The omega-3 market has had its share of obstacles in recent years: sales slumps, some negative publicity, and reliance on variable fish stocks. But industry pushes on. Sales are finally starting to grow again, albeit not yet to the levels seen during the ingredient's heyday. The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED; Salt Lake City) even went so far, as of this June, to predict 5% global growth-and even double digit growth in Asia-through 2017.

Total growth will likely come from a combination of industry innovation and regulatory changes, both of which are ongoing around the world. Luckily, there's exciting news in just about every corner of the omega-3 market, and there's certainly more to come before the year's end.

Fish Oil Fish oil makes up a majority of omega-3 productsales. Changes in the fsh oil market are happening both internationally and nationally.

While the Peruvian anchoveta (Engraulisringens) has historically been the world’s most caught fish, this year marks the frst time since 1998 that anchoveta is not the top-ranked species. According to the FAO’s latest State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report(SOFIA)1, the title now belongs to the Alaskan pollock (Theragra chalcogramma). Industry experts believe this shift is largely due to environmental impacts of El Niño, which are worse on Peruvian anchoveta than they are on Alaskan pollock. (It’s worth noting, though, that the anchoveta population has bounced back from El Niño weather before.)

Setting aside the question of which fish species reigns supreme, industry members are actively lobbying for regulatory improvementsto beneft fsh oil of all major species. An FDA qualifed health claim for omega-3s and blood pressure has been pending in the U.S. for years. Latest reports from GOED, which fled the original request, indicate the wait continues. The association says that on July 29, FDA requested ( for the sixth time)to delay its response, this time for 180 days more until January 27, 2017.

The potential awarding of a health claim could, of course, dramatically infuence omega-3 sales locally. Earlier this year, Canada approved a food health claim foromega-3 EPA and DHA for lowering triglycerides,and GOED has modest expectations for growth in that market, led by clinical and medical foods.

Though the omega-3 markets in the U.S. and Canada differ in size, the combined industries await a regulatory update that could benefit both countries: the creation of dietary reference intakes (DRIs). GOED petitioned the U.S. and Canadian governments for omega-3 EPA/DHA DRIs back in the summer of 2013. For now, two non–omega-3 ingredients, sodium and potassium, are proposed for DRI reviews in fall 2017. If EPA and DHA are next up for review, that could lead to omega-3 DRIs, which would serve as a basis for nutrient content claims—a huge opportunity for the omega-3 industry.

Although krill oil sales pale in comparison to those of fish oil, krill oil’s market share is growing significantly. Aker BioMarine (Oslo,Norway), which harvests and processes Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) in the Southern Ocean, says this single species now accounts for 20% of the omega-3 market globally, with consumer awareness at an all time high.

There are numerous players in the Antarctic krill–fishing industry, but none bigger than Aker, which harvested more than 60% of last year’s total catch, according to the company. T e Norwegian company is responsible for much of the innovation that’s improving krill oil as we know it—the latest being a new low-temperature fractionation method, dubbed Flexitech, that allows the company to better concentrate krill oil’s phospholipids and omega-3s, while at the same time removing the salts that negatively impact krill oil’s flavor and odor.

Using Flexitech, the company rolled out Superba 2 last year, the next generation of its flagship Superba krill oil, with better sensory and processing benefits. And at the Vitafoods Europe trade show this year, Aker introduced Superba Boost Caps, its first krill oil concentrate containing higher amounts of phospholipids, choline, and omega-3s, enabling potent doses in fewer capsules, which should especially benefit consumers who want (or are instructed by their physicians) to purchase high-dose omega-3 products. Manufacturers in the UK will be the first to benefit from these high doses. Recent Novel Foods approval, specific to Aker, lets UK manufacturers formulate krill oil extract products at doses of up to 3000 mg of omega-3 EPA and DHA. Other krill oil ingredients are still limited to 250g, the firm says.

Krill’s achievements are picking up in the human health market, but other sectors are also busy with this small crustacean. Lena Burri, Aker’s director of research and development for animal nutrition and health, says that partial replacement of fish feed with krill meal can help fish and shrimp farmers overcome palatability problems associated with feeds such as soybean meal—without adding costs. Limited research suggests that partial replacement with krill might even promote greater fish growth and shrimp growth. These are extra signs that krill can successfully penetrate a market where its direct competitor is fish (in this case, fish meal).

Aker is spearheading many developments with krill, other European companies are very much involved, including Rimfrost (Ålesund, Norway), which introduced an ultra-high-phospholipid krill oil,and Enzymotec (Migda HaEmeq, Israel), which is now promoting low-sodium krill oil. And because a burgeoning krill oil market exists in China, the world’s second largest consumer market, the country is working to build up its own krill fishery and harvest operations.

The perceived abundance of krill is one of its strongest selling points, compared to fish, and major players in the krill industry are still trying to uphold that idea with the help of independent conservation researchers, nonprofit organizations, and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) that helps monitor the krill population and sets yearly fishing quotas. In October 2016, CCAMLR will review the latest krill-fishing data to determine if any changes to conservation measures are necessary.

According to Jon Corsiglia, media manager USA, for fishery certifier the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Antarctic krill operations are still well within their quotas. “The population of krill in the fishery area is estimated at 62 million metric tons,” he says. “The total catch currently allowed from the entire fishery area is 1% of the population size. In 2014, less than half of the total 1% catch allowance was harvested by all krill-fishing vessels in the Antarctic. By any measure, these are extremely small catches of a very large krill population.”

MSC continues to expand its fishery certification and seafood-labeling programs. “The blue MSC ecolabel assures consumers that the krill oil product they buy originates from a sustainable fishery,” Corsiglia says. He adds that two Antarctic krill fisheries now bear MSC certification, “which demonstrates that they are operating to the highest standards of environmental sustainability in order to protect the unique ecosystems and species in the Southern Ocean.”

Read more at pg 68-74. Original article by Robby Gardner

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