Omega-3 Inside

Discussion
Jan 03, 2007

By George Anderson

The year 2007 may go down as the year omega-3 fatty acids were added to just about everything. The substance, found in fish as well as some nuts and oils, has been shown to cut the risk of heart disease and increase brain function. The result is that food manufacturers are adding omega-3 to products, including orange juice, infant formula, cereal, pet food, dairy products, eggs and butter substitutes.

According to Mintel, omega-3 was added to 120 new food products in 2005 and last year that number climbed to 250. This year, the number of foods with omega-3 added will climb even higher.

“Omega-3 is the hot ingredient,” Lynn Dornblaser, analyst at Mintel, told USA Today.

“It’s become the miracle food,” said, Maureen Putman, marketing chief at The Hain Celestial Group. The manufacturer, which puts omega-3 in its Health Valley brand cereal, plans to add it to the company’s Earth’s Best infant formula.

Many other manufacturers are following similar paths in response to consumer demand. According to a HealthFocus USA Trend Survey, forty percent of American adults are looking to add more omega-3 to their diet.

Among those looking to build sales with products containing omega-3 are Eggland’s Best, Kellogg, Omega Farms, Procter & Gamble, Tropicana and Unilever.

Eggland’s Best feeds hens with canola oil to create eggs with high omega-3 levels.

Kellogg has put omega-3 into Kashi cereal.

Omega Farms adds omega-3 to milk, cheese, yogurt and orange juice.

Procter & Gamble’s Eukanuba and Iams brands have omega-3 in a number of its pet foods. The brands first introduced omega-3 in products back in 1993.

Tropicana is rolling out a Healthy Heart orange juice with omega-3.

Unilever has added omega-3 to its I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter butter substitute.

Discussion Question: Will omega-3 be the miracle (sales) ingredient that brand manufacturers are looking for?

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12 Comments on "Omega-3 Inside"


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Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 4 months ago

The benefits of Omega-3 have been fairly well known for nearly 20 years. The National Fisheries Institute hopped on this bandwagon a long time ago to increase seafood consumption.

One of the big problems here is marketing. You can tout the benefits to consumers all you want, but the name Omega-3 fatty acids is simply not appealing no matter how you slice it. We need to put the advertising industry to work on this one.

A great example of this kind of success is Chilean Sea Bass. A highly appealing and exotic name that was made up to replace the product’s real moniker — the Patagonian Toothfish.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

The fast answer to the question is, “No.” Mark is right. It is a fad businesses and today’s “good for you” is potentially tomorrow’s “bad for you.” Just look at the data emerging out of England about Vitamin B12. For years doctors have been telling patients with heart issues to take it. Now researchers suggest that it doesn’t do anything. If the medical community can be so wrong about vitamins, what makes food manufacturers any better?

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Vitamins are a fad business. It’s omega-3 today and something else next year. The vitamin industry is nicely profitable because the margins are among the best in retailing. The chemicals cost very little to make in bulk, and people only need to consume tiny amounts daily. What’s the downside to adding vitamins to everything? It’s likely that the ingredient cost is less than the additional advertising expense.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Labeling is likely to be a critical issue. Those who are allergic to fish and/or nuts are going to want to know where the omega-3 oil came from and whether the oil has the same allergic properties as the fish and/or the nuts.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Adding Omega-3 — or any other substance with proven positive health benefits — is not a bad idea. But it is only differentiating so long as it is somewhat exclusive. This is particularly true when there is only one common natural source, in this case fish. It remains somewhat true when Omega-3 is only available in one brand within a category and it becomes even less true when it is available across multiple categories. (Do consumers really need to worry about whether their applesauce has Omega 3 when they already have Omega-3 enriched juice, bread, eggs and butter in their cart?) “Contains Omega-3” will disappear as an advertised product feature within 18 – 24 months.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
Can’t help but agree with the whole “it’s all about marketing” angle. Consumer demand always seems a misnomer to me; how many times have you REALLY seen or heard shoppers marching into a store and demanding anything? As we often say here, it is largely about perception and naming of names. I liked Kai’s O3 abbreviation. People will get used to something like that. And yes, more people read the small print on labels now than used to but most of us know that remembering and/or understanding and/or using what the labels say to influence decision making varies enormously. Additives that are allegedly good for us are not a matter of consumer demand other than when manufacturers declare it to be so. Their decisions are made on what current scientific and official opinion declares to be right and beneficial but opinions and research change almost as quickly as fashion; it is perception that lags behind. What we think we know may not be what we actually know as time passes. But this is where consumer… Read more »
Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 4 months ago

How long will Omega-3 be the important ingredient? Once upon a time, butter was bad and margarine was good. Once upon a time, sugar was bad and saccharine was good. Are people eating more fish at the expense of other products? Or is Omega-3 the food industry’s answer to health much as the wine industry makes claims to the healthy impact of red wine?

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Although this is a good positioning of an additive, and it reflects good marketing, it is clearly not a product-featured purchasing decision. Shoppers are not rolling down the grocery stores looking just for O-3 products. O-3 is not a destination driven decision, but instead is another advantage to purchasing one product over another with this listed as an ingredient. We often become too focused as consumers in our product purchasing behaviors, (like our search for Starbucks for coffee), but I don’t see this product driving our purchasing decisions as a “destination ingredient.”

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 4 months ago

There may be more to this story, indeed. If you check the omega-3 levels on a number of the foods mentioned above, you may see that the levels are quite low. We may be dealing with the same phenomenon that took over commercial bread baking 20 years ago: bread labeled “100% whole wheat” has SOME full-grain whole wheat (hence the 100% label) flour in it. The marketing and labeling is technically correct, but it may not be presenting the whole story. The wonders of marketing.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
15 years 4 months ago

I agree with Mark that this is simply good marketing against health trends. Low carb, high fiber, low sugar…it’s always something and will be a new one next year. But what’s the harm if it’s good for you in the end?

It’s nice to see that the trends are finally rooted in awareness in what we’re putting in our bodies rather than just taste and pleasure. The opportunity is for manufacturers to be able to spot the next trend and capitalize on it ahead of the curve.

Dan Nelson
Guest
Dan Nelson
15 years 4 months ago

The key phrase in the article is “in response to consumer demands.” Manufacturers will always listen to shopper demands and find ways to accommodate them, so this latest “miracle product benefit” simply follows a trend suppliers have taken from many years.

While there may (or may not) be miracle benefits to this added ingredient, the key factor is that consumers want this perceived attribute in the products they purchase, and branded manufacturers find ways to give shoppers what they want in order to sell more of their products.

Priyan Olikara
Guest
Priyan Olikara
15 years 4 months ago

It is too early to know if it works and will have any benefits. Keep a look out and see as time moves forward. However, until then, companies will have a field day in adding new products and marketing them. At the end of the day, we are easily carried away with new products and want to live forever.

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