As far as functional food ingredients go, none are hotter than omega-3s, and this trend will continue, according to New York-based market researcher Packaged Facts. In a report on the US market, Packaged Facts noted the market for foods and drinks fortified with plant and marine-sourced omega-3 fatty acids grew from a mere $100 million in 2002 to $2 billion in 2006. It forecast the market for ALA, DHA and EPA-infused foods would be worth $7 billion by 2011 — an annual growth rate of 60 per cent.
"Omega-3-fortified foods are highly recognisable to today's health-conscious consumer, and the once 'fishy-flavoured foods' are now behind us, thanks to exceptional advances in omega-3 food ingredients," said Packaged Facts publisher, Don Montuori. "By all indications, the addition of omega-3s is not only the current hottest fortified food trend, it will remain so for years to come."
The US market for omega-3 enhanced foods blossomed in 2004, when the FDA approved a health claim that consumption reduced the risk of heart disease. A similar claim is likely to be ratified across all European Union Member States under newly passed pan-European health claims legislation.
Packaged Facts noted the end-product market is dominated by smaller players with "a handful of large international corporations getting involved, usually through a sub-brand that has a health and wellness halo around it."
Marine oils are more prominent in consumers' minds than plant sources of omega-3s despite the fact plant-sourced omega-3s have greater sales, Packaged Facts said, but noted environmental concerns could push consumers toward plant sources such as flax. "Worries about environmental pollutants and contaminants like heavy metals, however, may prompt some consumers to shy away from marine sources of omega-3s."