Interest in omega-3s appears to be growing in these extraordinary times when global health is of chief concern. During a Natural Products Insider SupplySide webcast1, presenter Tracy Landau, founder of marketing agency MarketPlace, said immunity and prevention are currently the top purchase drivers for U.S. supplement users. In 2019, immunity ranked fifth on the list of consumer demands, but updated research following the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, saw immunity move to third place, after disease prevention/overall wellness and gut/digestive health.
Omegas have traditionally been best known for providing benefits for brain, heart, and eye health. A report from FMCG Gurus2, which explores how the current global health situation has impacted consumer behavior, identified that, surprisingly, 79% of consumers associate omega-3s with supporting immune function.
According to a report conducted by MarketsandMarkets3, the omega-3 market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 13.1% to reach USD 8.52 billion by 2025 from 4.07 billion in 2019. Increasing consumer awareness about the health benefits of omega-3 may significantly contribute to the growth of the market.
Demographically speaking, experts like Greg Cumberford, vice president of science and regulatory for Nature’s Crops International, are noticing that younger consumers, notably the youngest Gen Z consumers who are just now becoming adults, are factoring their eco-social concerns into their purchasing decisions. “Ultimately, consumer demand is growing because of the results consumers are seeing and how these are being shared on social media. In addition to real-life health outcomes, people are becoming more concerned about sustainability – connecting the dots between personal and planetary wellness. People are seeking more vegetarian supplement alternatives that retain their complete, balanced and holistic connection to raw natural sources, instead of highly standardized biochemical fractions,” said Cumberland.
In 2020, nearly half (48%) of all consumers factored environmental sustainability in their purchasing choices4. Now more than ever, they get the direct connection between planetary and personal well-being. Cumberland continues, “Consumer experience, awareness, and science are combining to strengthen support for plant-based omegas. Trending consumer dietary behaviors (vegan, Mediterranean, paleo, keto, etc.) will continue driving demand for clean-label, fresh, traceable, healthy ingredients like Ahiflower oil.
The Mega Omega
Ahiflower oil contains the richest, most complete and balanced omega fatty acid profile available from a farmed oilseed crop and it is taking the omega-3 segment by storm. As more consumers seek out plant-based alternatives, Ahiflower finds itself at the forefront of the emerging trend as more natural product brands are incorporating it into their product launches.
Derived from elite cultivars of Buglossoides arvensis, a hedgerow plant in the Boraginaceae family that is native to the United Kingdom, Ahiflower oil is different from fish oil in that it is converted in the body into biologically active forms of fatty acids, which are a source of energy in the body and are primary constituents of cell membranes. It contains the only two essential fatty acids: the omega-3, Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and the omega-6, linoleic acid (LA). These two are essential because we must get them from our diet since our bodies do not make them. It is also a rich source of stearidonic acid (SDA) and Gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which our bodies metabolize and convert to beneficial eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the two kinds of omega-3s found in fish. Ahiflower oil is an excellent source of all four of the most critical and beneficial precursor omega-3s and omega-6s – ALA, SDA, LA, and GLA. Being a source for all four of these fatty acids is crucial because they are all extremely important in ensuring support for cellular and tissue functioning in the most natural and efficient way.
Not only does Ahiflower check the plant-based box for consumers, but unlike many omega sources, it also meets the demand for sustainability. Ahiflower crops are farmed regeneratively and traceably, and since it is not a marine-based omega source, its use takes pressure off wild marine forage species that dominate the omega-3 supply chain. It is grown exclusively by a network of independent U.K. farmers under contract with Natures Crops International, which has spent decades developing elite cultivars and horticultural practices that make Ahiflower oil’s quality so unique while giving back more to soil fertility and pollinators than it takes and supporting rural farmland biodiversity.
Innovation Beyond Piles of Pills
Gone are the days when consumers are left with little choice but to swallow a handful of pills in order to supplement their diets. Spawned in part by “pill fatigue” and the desire of companies to stand apart in a crowded market, nutraceutical delivery systems have evolved beyond large tablets and capsules.
Contract manufacturers have been the driving force working on front lines to bring a range of options to the table, from pricing advantages, to expertise with certain market niches or dosage forms, to a reputation for extended shelf life.
Industry innovation will play a large part in sustaining consumer interest. The omega-3 market continues to evolve to meet consumer demand, including expanding plant-based options. Other innovations stem from the need to improve the sensory characteristics of omega-3 oils so that their inclusion in applications like food and beverages is a bit more seamless. If it is not pleasurable, consumers will not stick to the dietary regimen. Thankfully for brands, omegas can be incorporated into some unique delivery formats for which consumers may not already be aware.
While this is not a conventional innovation, in that Ahiflower crops have been grown according to regenerative practices for years, the VitaSperse technology created by 3i Solutions is an innovation in the broader spectrum of omega-3 sourcing options. The VitaSperse technology makes oil soluble materials water dispersible. Its formulation creates fully dispersible liquid emulsion systems that complement Ahiflower’s existing 50%-payload microencapsulated powders. Ahiflower is also available as a great tasting powder and can be easily incorporated into functional foods.
Grab-and-go delivery options are moving up in sales as young consumers are seeking dietary supplements that fit within their busy lifestyles and new plant-based omegas are getting past the fishy and algal taste snafus. Whether it is through a stick pack, a personalized pill pack or a nutritional bar, contract manufacturers can now create unique formulations that help consumers take their health-boosting ingredients with them on-the-go.
The Need to Educate
With the rise in omega-3 interest, the need to educate consumers is a major responsibility of the natural products industry.
Today, aesthetics and user experience play a key role in selling a product and its benefits and can be used effectively in educating consumers. Think about scrolling through Instagram from a dietary supplement perspective. Who wants to be sitting on their couch watching someone pop a pill?
The answer: no one.
Consumers are attracted to images that are eye-catching and products with a purpose. Take for instance, Nouri’s probiotic 2-in-1 capsule. Not only is the probiotic sealed in a second protective layer surrounded by Ahiflower oil to optimize absorption while providing a daily dose of omegas, it is sustainably cultivated, fully traceable, and has a story to tell.
Visually appealing dietary supplement videos, like those with the technology of VitaSperse, draw in the consumer. Videos that are visually appealing and engaging are considered the new wave of marketing for the dietary supplement industry.
If you catch the eye of the consumer, you’re one step closer to gaining a loyal customer.
Millennials and Generation Y consumers are driving transformation in dosage forms by increasingly incorporating supplements into their health regimens; and in the “Age of Me”, they are demanding convenience along with an overall pleasant experience that coincides with their desire for sustainable products.
Now nearing 40 years old and soon to be the largest, living adult generation, many millennials are taking charge of their health and will carry their healthy habits into their golden years. While most are beginning to feel the sense of loss when it comes to invincibility and youthfulness, this makes them a high-value demographic for supplement brands.
Millennials learn about natural ingredients and their benefits mostly through a variety of social media platforms and through influencer marketing. This is much different from traditional marketing but can also be an effective way to educate all generations on the benefits of omegas.
More and more formulators are seeing the benefits of Ahiflower and how it uniquely meets the demands of today’s consumer – complete, balanced, fresh, sustainable, convenient, and traceable. As consumers continue to prioritize their health, omega-3s will keep finding favor with those who consider them essential to their health and wellbeing.
By Jacqueline Rizo, Content Coordinator at Stratum Nutrition.
1. Natural Products Insider SupplySide webcast. “Consumer Insights for Building a Post-Pandemic Supplement Brand.” Presented June 23, 2020. Accessed at: https://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/webinars/consumer-insights-building-post-pandemic-supplement-brand-webinar
2. FMCG Gurus report. “COVID-19: Re-evaluating Strategies in an Era of Uncertainty.” Presented June 18, 2020.
3. Markets and Markets. (2019, December). “Omega-3 Market.” Accessed at: https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/omega-3-omega-6-227.html
4. Vitafoods Insight, “Sustainable Supply Chain: Protecting Planet, People, and profits.” October 2020, Vol. 5, Issue 9.