Snack manufacturers advised to target parents about omega-3’s brain benefits for children

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

There is a vast range of sources of omega-3s available to snack and bakery manufacturers, not just fatty fish. Pic: ©iStock/13-Smile
There is a vast range of sources of omega-3s available to snack and bakery manufacturers, not just fatty fish. Pic: ©iStock/13-Smile

Related tags Euromonitor international Omega-3 fatty acid

Omega-3 consumption is on the rise, but consumers are still not completely convinced of their benefits and manufacturers need to be motivated to address this.

This is according to Euromonitor International that recently released new analysis about omega-3.

John George, ingredients analyst at Euromonitor International, told BakeryAndSnacks omega-3s have seen a global increase of over 3,000 metric tons, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3%, between 2010 and 2015.

However, omega-3 fortification in food and beverages is struggling in developed markets, says John Madden, head of ingredients at Euromonitor.

“Asia-Pacific is the major driver of growth, accounting for 42% of the increased consumption,” ​said George. The developed regions of North America and Western Europe posted just 1% growth of omega-3 ingredients over the same period.

According to the analysis, bread is one of the biggest providers of omega-3 with 6,375 tons of long chain omega-3s consumed in bread last year.

But this had more to do with the sheer volume size of the global packaged bread market as around 1.3 billion tons of bread were consumed in 2015 alone, stated Madden.

Loss of interest

Euromonitor believes the decline is a result of dwindling consumer interest. People know that omega-3s are beneficial, but don’t feel the fatty acids are essential enough to increase their intake.

“The believability gap is a phrase coined by Adam Ismail of GOED, the industry association for DHA and EPA. It refers to the difficulty in communicating research on omega-3s to consumers and convincing them of the benefits,”​ said George.

Manufacturers, too, have tended to shy away from including these ingredients, which can cause technical difficulties and escalate costs.

“GOED recommends a daily intake of 500 mg of long chain omega-3s,” ​said George. “Unfortunately, most foods are unable to incorporate omega-3s to this degree without impacting significantly on the product’s properties, including taste.

“One of the core principles of clean label is that products are kept as simple as possible, with a minimal number of ingredients. Fortification flies in the face of this as it is the addition of an ingredient that isn’t essential to the product,”​ he continued , noting that for many consumers, the inclusion of fish oil on an ingredient list for a food and beverage product is likely to deter them.

However, the research does list a number of alternative sources to fish, including algae, chia and flax seeds, and genetically modified canola plants.

Building the omega-3 chain

Euromonitor reported the omega-3 industry has to be more assertive in communications.

Ultimately, this message is conveyed by manufacturers, so strong working relationships are needed to ensure manufacturers believe the fatty acids will add value and are therefore willing to invest in effective promotion of those associated benefits.

This can be achieved by targeting specific consumers, using the omega-3 health claim most relevant to them.

For example, suggested George, snack bar products targeted at children should be focusing on omega-3s association with brain development as this will appeal to parents. 

On the other hand, products that are targeted at older consumers and seniors should instead address omega-3s links to cardiovascular benefits, which are likely to be the bigger concern, he said.

“Using this method, rather than using several differing health claims, will give consumers a more tangible idea of why they need to consume omega-3s, compelling them to choose products fortified with them,” ​he remarked.

The role of know-how, tools and equipment

Technology providers also need to come to the party, added George.

“Consumers won’t tolerate products with off-tastes or smells, so technologies that reduce the sensory issues associated with omega-3s are vital. These technologies need to be cheap to encourage manufacturers to incorporate them into products and keep it affordable for consumers.

“The new technology should allow incorporation in a wider variety of products, but also enable incorporation of greater quantities of omega-3s, ensuring that consumption of the fortified product actually leads to a health benefit,”​ he ended.

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