Fish oil's lesson: All platforms are not created equal

Fish oil's lesson: All platforms are not created equal

Product developers were reminded of an important lesson in the past year: When it comes to an ingredient — even a very popular one — platform does matter. In the case of fish oils, what companies learned is: Don't put it in yogurt, shelf-stable juices or cheese. But do put it in capsules and milk.

Product developers were reminded of an important lesson in the past year: When it comes to an ingredient — even a very popular one — platform does matter.

In the case of fish oils, what companies learned is: Don't put it in yogurt, shelf-stable juices or cheese. But do put it in capsules and milk.

According to SPINS, sales of products containing natural fish oil concentrates in the past year increased 25 percent, from $215.57 million to $270.04 million, in the FDM channel.

Sales of products containing fish oil varied widely, however, depending on product category. In total dollar sales, the most popular fish-oil platform by far is food supplements, at $269.14 million (a 25 percent increase). Condiments, dressings and marinades register at a distant second, netting $117,054 (a 1.5 percent increase).

The greatest growth rates were seen in miscellaneous supplements with fish oil concentrate, rising 176 percent to $70,000; energy bars and gels, up nearly 1,351 percent to $56,100; and milk containing fish oil, up nearly 1,388 percent to $83,900.

While not disappearing entirely, the cheese and cheese alternatives category entered the endangered species list with a 96.4 percent decline in sales, from $27,188 to only $985. File this under: Idea that didn't catch on. Thanks to the AHA

"We attribute the increase in overall fish oil product sales in the FDM channel to the fact more conventional physicians are recommending their patients take fish oil for heart health and other conditions," said Kerry Watson, manager of the SPINS Product Library.

The American Heart Association first began recommending fish oil supplementation to heart patients in 2002, in guidelines published in the medical journal Circulation, and continues to update the guidelines regularly on its website.

In its September 2009 vitamins and minerals report, Mintel reported a sharp rise in fish oil supplements between 2006 and 2009, which it also attributed to the influence of the AHA.

In a consumer survey of over 12,000 adults, Mintel found that the use of fish oil supplements rose 9 percentage points, from 16 percent of those surveyed in 2006 to $25 percent in 2009. It was the highest recorded gain of any particular supplement over that time period.

"So far this year, we have surpassed all of our projections; we continue to set sales records," says Corinna Bellizzi, retail division manager for Nordic Naturals. "Though I do not have a crystal ball, we anticipate maintaining strong growth through 2010 and beyond."

What suppliers are saying

"We have released numerous fish oil products with added Vitamin D3 — and these products are growing quickly. Consumers are looking for more new ways to get these nutrients into their diets, through traditional supplementation and new delivery systems. An example of this is our Omega-3 Effervescent. In just one water-soluble creamy orange packet, consumers get 500mg EPA + DHA and 1200 IU vitamin D3."

—Corinna Bellizzi, retail division manager, Nordic Naturals

Chart: Fish oil sales

Total US sales of fish oil concentrate - FDM Channel

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