UK brands renew interest in omega-3

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European food safety authority Omega-3 fatty acid Ulrick

UK brands renew interest in omega-3
Top food brands are revisiting omega-3 after battling regulatory hurdles, consumer understanding and issues raised by the taste it gave products, according to Ulrick & Short (U&S) md Andrew Ulrick.

Major manufacturers in categories such as breakfast cereals, beverages, sports nutrition and bakery were working on products that are close to commercial launch, said Ulrick. "They are having another go with it."

Birds Eye has successfully launched fish fingers promoting its omega-3 content and Allied Bakeries still makes products incorporating omega-3 as part of its Kingsmill 50/50 range.

Consumers had struggled with the idea of omega-3 in categories they did not naturally link it with, Ulrick said. However, awareness of its health benefits and versatility had increased. "The time has come for the consumer to make that leap."​ And he was confident that U&S could work with manufacturers to successfully address the taste issue.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) earlier this year approved use of 'maintenance of normal brain function' and 'maintenance of normal vision' claims to market foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.

This had given the market a lift, said Ulrick. "The general public don't know what EFSA is, but the fact that it has allowed claims has given omega-3 a good profile in the industry."

Ulrick said U&S is set to expand its flax-derived ingredients, all of which can make an omega-3 claim and also contain omega-6. These currently consist of two fibres, which also carry fibre claims, and one oil.

Their sustainable credentials were attracting processors, he added. "Flax is not depleting fish stocks, it is not depleting the earth's resources and if it were not for flax there would not be an economy in certain areas of the world."

U&S is investigating more fibres from different sources. "Many products are still going through the launch and roll out process,"​ said Ulrick. "It's only in the last three months that we have got a marketing package together. The initial interest from well-known players is encouraging. These are major branded manufacturers."

However, some residual obstacles remained regarding safe daily consumption levels and delivering omega-3 in a form that allowed the body to absorb it in large enough amounts to be effective, he said. "I don't think we are quite there yet. A Recommended Daily Allowance hasn't been confirmed, nor has how much we need in a product to make a claim.

"The good thing about omega-3 is that you can't overdose on it, but overdosing on omega-6 can cause quite serious digestive problems. Fortunately the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 in flax is the right ratio for the body to cope with."

U&S was supplying its flax-based ingredients in partnership with a company in Finland. "It's a relatively small plant, but there's ample scope for expansion and the market is growing,"​ said Ulrick.

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