The product will be marketed at a premium price but could help its manufacturer Canton American Flower Lounge Livestock Company (CAFL), a subsidiary of Lark International Dairy Holdings, better differentiate from a raft of me-too products being introduced in China's fast-growing dairy sector.
Drinking yoghurts are one of the fastest-growing segments of China's dairy industry, with growth forecast by consultants McKinsey at 30 per cent annually in the next five years. The country currently produces an estimated 600,000 700,000 tons of yoghurt.
However McKinsey also points to a lack of R&D by dairy companies.
"Milk beverages and yoghurt…are innovation-driven products requiring strong R&D formulation and consumer segmentation skills, and many domestic dairy companies have little of either," say the authors of a recent report in the McKinsey Quarterly.
CAFL is the first to have made an investment in adding omega-3 to its a yoghurt product and it remains to be seen whether others will follow However the product has already gained the backing from the Guangdong Dairy Association, which named it the '2006 Recommended Product' at a recent press conference.
Wang Dingmian, deputy chairman of the Guangdong Dairy Association, said that DHA has already been added to milk powder for infants and the elderly by some companies but it is the first time that has been included in yoghurt in China.
However CAFL's parent company, Lark Dairies, launched a MEG-3 fortified version of its Trappist Brand Milk in Hong Kong last year, and in the post-launch period said it was out-selling its regular milk by two to one.
The new OMU brand drinkable yoghurt is being rolled out in the Pearl River Delta area, targeted at five to 18 year-olds who need the DHA and EPA for growing brains and bones.
It contains MEG-3 fish oil, developed by Canadian company Ocean Nutrition, which has developed a micro-encapsulation technology called Powder-loc that protects the oil from oxidization. This is responsible for the fishy taste and smell.
The dairy company is claiming on the product label that omega-3 is good for the brain and bones.
Wang said that the most common functional ingredient added into liquid milk is calcium; more than 70 per cent of liquid milk producers claim that they add calcium into their products.
"China's functional milk market is just starting but I am optimistic about its future as people become more aware of the benefits of functional ingredients," he said.
Additional reporting by Francis Yang.