DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS – Omega-3 claims are slipping in the dairy sector, according to Innova Market Insights, a market research firm.

While the number of dairy products with omega-3 claims has increased over a five-year period, their share of total dairy launches, excluding dairy alternative drinks, has dipped to 1.5% in 2013 from 2.4% in 2008.

“While awareness of the potential health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has risen over the years, recent tightening up of claims legislation has tended to decrease the use of this type of claim in relation to specific benefits,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “Terms such as ‘high in omega-3s,’ ‘contains omega-3s,’ ‘rich in omega-3s,’ have continued to be used, but links to heart health, brain and cognitive health, eye health, etc. have been much less in evidence, with companies relying more on existing consumer knowledge about potential benefits.”

Approximately 70% of Americans are aware that omega-3 fatty acids may promote heart health, according to the 2013 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Driven by a higher interest in functional and healthy products, North America boasts the largest number of dairy launches with omega-3 messaging, representing nearly 35% of the global total, as well as the highest share in terms of total dairy launches, with 3.8%, ahead of the Asian market with over 2.6%.

Interest in omega-3 fortified milks has risen in the United States, where nearly 8% of milk launches featured omega-3 claims, compared with the global figure of 3% in the year ended October 2013.

Yellow fats and milks account for just over 80% of global launches using omega-3 or DHA claims in 2013. Omega-3 claims were featured in just over 10% of yellow fats introductions, while 3% of milk product launches included the claim.

In April 2013, Boulder Brands launched from its Smart Balance brand blended butter sticks with omega-3 fatty acids. The sticks contain real butter and a blend of palm fruit, canola and purified fish oils, plus plant sterols to “help block cholesterol in the butter,” according to the product’s packaging.

Positioning of yellow fats has changed in recent years, with cholesterol- and heart health-related claims giving way to more generalized health descriptors, Innova said.

“Although product activity in omega-3 fortified dairy products has been rather less in evidence in recent years, clearly there is still interest in the sector and potential for further development, particularly considering the wide range of different health benefits associated with it,” Ms. Williams said.