By Mike Urch, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 14 April, 2014
The global market for omega-3 products is expected to almost triple by 2020 to reach USD 7.32 billion (EUR 5.3 billion), according to a recent study by Grand View Research. It is currently valued at less than USD 2 billion (EUR 1.5 billion).
Growing consumer awareness of the health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids, coupled with the rising prevalence of coronary heart disease, are expected to drive market demand during the next six years, the U.S. company says.
Functional foods were the largest application segment of omega-3 ingredients in 2013 the researchers found, accounting for more than 55 percent of global demand. Infant formulas and pharmaceuticals were other key applications and are expected to have a combined market of more than USD 2.7 billion (EUR 2 billion) by 2020, growing at a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.9 percent and 17.5 percent from 2014 to 2020 respectively.
The global market for products containing the long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids was estimated to be 24,870 tons in 2013, according to Grand View Research. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.7 percent from 2014 to 2020.
Europe was the largest consumer of omega-3 products in 2013, accounting for more than 60 percent of global consumption, followed by North America. However, while Europe is expected to retain its No. 1 position, North America is expected to lose market share to emerging regions such as Asia Pacific and Latin America.
The high birth rate of countries such as India and China is expected to boost the demand for sale of omega-3 ingredients in applications such as infant formulas. In addition, the changing lifestyle in Asia has led to an increased focus on health, particularly coronary heart disease, which has directly impacted the demand for omega-3 ingredients.
Fish oil is the main supply source for omega-3 ingredients. However, the reduced or static production levels of fish oil acts as a major inhibitor for the growth of the market, Grand Market Research says. “This situation is expected to escalate owing to the uneven frequency of the El Niño, which further reduces the overall fishing volumes.”
The supply of fish oil has remained around the 1,000-ton mark for the past few years and FAO estimates suggest that it is not expected to increase significantly over the forecast period. The global situation with the fish oil market has opened vast opportunities for the development of alternate sources such as flax seeds and algae for the extraction of omega-3 ingredients.
Krill oil is another valuable source of the omega-3 essential fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and krill is probably the only unexploited fishery resource in the world today.
Krill oil has significant benefits over fish oil in that it has a phospholipid structure whereas fish oil has a triglyceride form. It also has an addition to EPA called astaxanthin, which is a powerful antioxidant. This makes the oxygen radical absorbance capacity value of krill oil 48 times more potent than fish oil.
However, for many consumers, the main advantage of this oil is its rapid absorption which eliminates any “fishy” aftertaste and belching. There is also less concern over potential mercury or lead poisoning.
Krill is the largest unexplored fishery biomass in the world today, but whether it can be sustainably exploited remains an unanswered question. But with the supply of fish oil remaining static, and the global demand for omega-3 ingredients continuing to rise — it is forecast to increase from 21,900 tons in 2012 to more than 60,000 tons by 2020 — many operators will be willing to try.