Market researchers say consumers are uncomfortable with a fish oil-dairy mix
German dairy Müller has dropped omega-3 fish oil from its UK functional pot-yoghurt and drinking-yoghurt range Vitality, after research found consumers considered its inclusion in yoghurts 'confusing.'
A $5 million relaunch will now reposition Vitality as purely a gut-health range, with the products' probiotic and prebiotic ingredients retained.
The deletion is something of a u-turn by Müller. The company added fish oil to the range just three years ago. Vitality pot yoghurt was originally launched in 2000, the yoghurt drink in 2002.
Chris McDonough, Müller UK's marketing director, said the company was reacting to changing times. "We found in our research that people simply weren't interested in having omega-3s in a yoghurt product. We believe it was the right move to incorporate omega-3s in Vitality in 2005, when there was a surge in demand for products enriched with omega-3s. But the category has moved on considerably.
"Consumers are now more aware of other foods where they can obtain their intake of omega-3s, and having omega-3s as an ingredient in Vitality is not a key requirement for the vast majority of yoghurt and yoghurt-drink consumers."
So what does Müller's decision say about the future of omega-3s enrichment? Dorothy MacKenzie, director of consultancy Dragon Brands, said, "It may be the format that's the issue and the degree to which it's perceived to be distant from naturally occurring sources.
"There's always been a concern about stuff that's added to things where they don't naturally occur. And people are falling back on naturally occurring sources of omega-3s."
Jerry Luff of Nu-Mega, a supplier of omega-3 DHA from tuna oil, said, "Consumers view omega-3s as being healthy, but there is always some degree of that cognitive dissonance that occurs when you have a material that is evidently from a different source in a product not usually associated with that source.
"There is still quite a deal of consumer education to be undertaken by the industry. There is a definite need for consumers to be aware that what we're talking about is not fish per se in a product but the essential fatty acid.
"This was an issue the industry would need to grapple with," he added, because for the "near- to medium-term" future, fish were likely to remain the pre-eminent, cost-effective source of long-chain fatty acid ingredients.