What’s in store for the omega 3 market?
There’s no denying that the market for omega 3 ingredients has grown in recent years, with the fatty acid and its health improvement claims proving popular among manufacturers and consumers alike. We take a close look at what’s next for this particular sector.
Looking at forecasts by various research firms, it seems the omega 3 market is set for strong growth over the next few years. Figures from Transparency Market Research (TMR) predict the segment will see a rise in global sales from $1.6 billion (£1.1 billion) in 2010 to more than $4 billion (£2.7 billion) in 2018, representing a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent over the next five years.
This is thanks in part to a rise in interest in fortified and functional foods – which represented more than three-fifths of overall ingredient demand in 2010 – that claim to offer benefits such as cholesterol control, according to the report, although increasing raw material costs, low awareness in some parts of the world and issues regarding labelling and claims may restrict growth.
Specific growth areas
Perhaps the most interesting trend for manufacturers with an interest in omega 3 is TMR’s prediction that infant formulas and pharmaceuticals will become key growth areas in the next few years. Supplement makers specialising in fish oils may want to invest in new capsule counting equipment to meet demand.
Packaged Facts also suggests that expansion will come about through the sale of beauty and pet products enhanced with omega 3, offering plenty of opportunities for a variety of market players.
Studies highlighting the potential health benefits of omega 3 are still coming thick and fast. Research conducted by the University of Manchester found that omega 3 could help prevent skin cancer, as subjects who regularly took fish oils displayed increased skin immunity.
“Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega 3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual’s lifetime,” said Professor Lesley Rhodes, professor of experimental dermatology at the university’s Photobiology Unit Dermatology Centre.
Last year, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in the US found that an increased intake of omega 3 can lead to improvements in working memory for those aged between 18 and 25, while another study by experts at the University of Kansas Medical Center makes a link between omega 3 and a reduced likelihood of extremely premature births.
The shadow of doubt
However, there have also been a number of studies claiming that omega 3’s health claims aren’t entirely believable. Last year, the Harvard School of Public Health published research indicating that there is little evidence for omega 3 helping reduce a type of irregular heartbeat experienced by a third of cardiac surgery patients.
The University Hospital of Ioannina in Greece also conducted a review of 20 studies and found that there is little statistically significant evidence supporting the link between omega 3 and a reduced risk of stroke, heart attack or premature death. It is this shadow of doubt that TMR is referring to when talking about restricted market growth.
Regardless, demand for omega 3 doesn’t look set to abate any time soon, especially with market giant BASF investing heavily in the ingredient by preparing to produce drug grade omega 3 at a new Scottish plant this year. So, other manufacturers may well benefit from following BASF’s example and keeping a close eye on the omega 3 sector for future opportunities.