Fish oil in food is still in its infancy, but the concept took a giant step toward adulthood with the announcement this week of the deal between Ocean Nutrition Canada and Wilmar International, a Singapore-based company that is the biggest seller of cooking oil in China.
It's a huge win for Ocean Nutrition, which has had much success recently placing its various forms of fish oil in food delivery systems under its Meg-3 brand name.
"It's going to be substantial," said Robert Orr, chairman of Ocean Nutrition. "(Wilmar has) a 48 percent share in the cooking oil market in China. Cooking oil is the leading SKU in that market.
"Without revealing competitive information, it has the possibility as it continues to roll out to be a significant piece of business."
"Partnering with Ocean Nutrition Canada is strategically important because they offer not only the most highly trusted source of Omega-3 EPA/DHA, but also superior service, and on-going support. We continue to invest and expand our manufacturing and distribution infrastructure, and this alliance is a significant long-term exciting endeavor for both parties," said Mr. Lee, Chairman of Yihai Kerry Foodstuffs Marketing Co., Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wilmar International.
Wilmar will use Ocean Nutrition's food-grade fish oil to deliver EPA and DHA to Chinese consumers. Cooking in woks with oil is the standard food prepration method in the world's largest consumer market, and research by Wilmar confirmed that the average Chinese takes in only 37.6 mg of EPA and DHA per day. That is less than 25 percent of the EPA/DHA level accepted by the United States Institute of Medicine (IOM), and less than 10 percent of the intake recommended by the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL).
Ocean Nutrition's fish oil is being incorporated in Wilmar's Arawana 3+ blended cooking oil. Coincidentally, the brand's packaging features a representation of its namesake: an arawana, a huge fish native to the Amazon River.
The Wilmar-Ocean Nutrition partnership has promise not only as a bottom line booster, Orr said. With the placement of EPA and DHA into such a staple food product, the deal has real potential to impact the health of millions of Chinese consumers.
"This is a very significant breakthrough," Orr said."Today most of the products that have omega-3 EPA and DHA in them have been lifestyle products.
"(Wilmar) felt that cooking is so widely used in China and they are so committed to health and wellness that this would really up their intake of omega 3s, particularly EPA and DHA."