Tide rises in omega-3 awareness

by Jeff Gelski
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CHICAGO — Omega-3 fatty acid awareness and ingredient supply escalated at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo. Hormel Health Technology, L.L.C. and the specialty products division of Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minn., launched the Eterna brand of omega-3 fish oils at the event held in Chicago’s McCormick Place July 28 to Aug. 1. Cognis Nutrition & Health introduced Omevital 1812 TG Gold, an oil product developed for spreads, refrigerated beverages, dairy and oil-based food applications.

Consumer research has shown omega-3 awareness as high as 90%, said Ian Lucas, executive vice-president of global sales and marketing for Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd., Dartmouth, N.S. Flax Canada, Winnipeg, Man., released a survey in May that showed 80% of consumers would switch to omega-3 fortified foods if they were made available at their local supermarkets without additional cost. Almost 50% were familiar with omega-3 health benefits. The randomized survey involved 1,199 U.S. consumers between the ages of 35 and 65.

Hormel and Cognis both launched fish oil ingredients at the I.F.T. event. Fish oil contains two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Plant sources such as flax contain another kind in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

To create Eterna, Hormel Health Technology formed a joint venture with Source Food Technology, Inc., Research Triangle Park, N.C. Source Food has the equipment to deodorize, cleanse and purify the fish oil, which involves a proprietary process that removes virtually all of the fish odors and flavors, said Michael Buttshaw, national sales and marketing manager for Hormel Foods Specialty Products. Hormel will provide the sales and marketing for the ingredient.

Nanotechnology will create small-size particles, allowing for Eterna’s use in beverages. An orange juice at Hormel’s I.F.T. booth offered 100 mg of omega-3 per serving. The ingredient, however, will cloud up clear beverages, Mr. Buttshaw said.

Samples of hot dogs and processed cheddar cheese with Eterna also were available at the booth. Hormel will need to investigate label issues concerning meat and other products regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For products it regulates, the Food and Drug Administration has the omega-3 qualified health claim, "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."

The U.S.D.A. may not allow such an F.D.A. claim on a product it regulates, Mr. Buttshaw said.

Hormel needs to do more research to make Eterna work in baked foods applications, Mr. Buttshaw said. Encapsulation of the ingredient will be necessary.

Like the Hormel ingredient, Cognis’ Omevital 1812 TG Gold contains EPA and DHA. Typical use levels are 100 mg to 250 mg per serving. Napro Pharma, a member of the Cognis Group and based in Brattvaag, Norway, produces Omevital. Cognis’ food technology team in Illiterissen, Germany, is developing Omevital ingredients for specific food applications. Cognis plans to introduce encapsulated Omevital products in the coming

months. Cognis and Wild Flavors, Inc., Erlanger, Ky., are working together on new applications with omega-3 fish oils.

Competition among ingredient suppliers may be a good thing, especially with the recent surge in omega-3’s popularity, said Mr. Lucas of Ocean Nutrition Canada.

"A rising tide raises all ships," he said.

Ocean Nutrition Canada has an advantage in its Powder-loc microencapsulation technology, which offers double shell protection and allows inclusion of O.N.C.’s Meg-3 ingredient in more applications. Meg-3 has found its way into 25 different food applications over the past two years, including Tropicana orange juice.

Pizzey’s Milling, Angusville, Man., combined all three kinds of omega-3 fatty acids into its MeadowPure 03 Ultra, launched earlier this year and promoted by Pizzey’s at the I.F.T. event. Pizzey’s Milling processes the fish oil and its EPA and DHA into milled flaxseed, a source of ALA. The process stabilizes the fish oil. Pizzey’s Milling provided Packaged Facts information showing ALA-enhanced foods currently have a 70% market share of products enhanced with omega-3, but DHA/EPA-enhanced foods will control more than 70% of the market by 2011.

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