By Len Monheit
Last week, Consumerlab.com announced that fifty fish oil supplements were free of contaminants in fish, meaning that they were under suggested levels of heavy medals, and that they also contained label levels of EPA and DHA with no indication of spoilage. GOED, (the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s), noted in its own release that one of the reasons for this signal category success is the alignment of category stakeholders in GOED itself, and in its predecessor, the CRN omega-3 working group, which led to the development of voluntary standards and significant levels of compliance among most category participants several years ago.
For a few years now, this group has been the poster child of industry collaboration amongst competitors, seeking to build a bigger pie for all contributors – and has watched as the omega-3 category has grown significantly over that time period. With 60 member companies, GOED now envelops much of the world’s EPA and DHA ingredient companies, with some presence in finished products (food and supplements) and remains one of very few category-based organizations in the world.
Is it just a fluke that Consumerlab.com’s testing positives should align with GOED’s activities? I think not, as the voluntary monograph was a huge priority, back in the day of the omega-3 working group for CRN. So apparently, the foresight that gave rise to that initiative is paying off, not only in category growth, but also in product quality throughout the category – something that other category groups (or hopefuls) should keep in mind. One way to raise the bar is to organize - even with competitors – and as I’ve expressed before, I foresee other groups banding together similarly. In recent years we’ve seen the formation and some growth of the International Probiotics Association (IPA), and there is currently talk of at least two other category-based groups forming, seeking clarity within the category, the ability to make a statement of responsibility, the opportunity to generate standards – and ultimately stable category growth.
With a group of industries that are as disparate as the natural/nutritional sector, this is perhaps the only way that parts of it will effectively become organized and fully mature, as even the ‘traditional’ trade association may find itself either politically compromised or technically challenged.. Whatever the case, consumers now can have general confidence that their fish oil products are free from contamination and contain label amounts of EPA and DHA – all in all a very good thing.