Omega-3 use in dairy in decline, market potential remains

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 28th January 2014
Omega-3 claims in dairy products in decline, but there's still potential

While the actual number of dairy products featuring omega-3 claims has risen over a five-year period, their total share of dairy launches (excluding dairy alternative drinks) fell from 2.4 per cent in the 52 weeks to the end of October 2008 to 1.5 per cent in the same period in 2013, according to market research organisation Innova Market Insights.

The dairy sector has traditionally been one where omega-3 claims have featured fairly strongly in recent years, particularly for yellow fats and milks.

“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,” she said.

Omega-3 claims most popular in the US

As might be expected, the higher level of interest in functional and healthy products in North America was reflected in the relative popularity of omega-3 products in the dairy sector there.

Not only did the region have the largest number of dairy launches using omega-3 claims, with nearly 35 per cent of the global total, it also had the highest share in terms of total dairy launches, with 3.8 per cent, ahead of the also relatively health-conscious Asian market with over 2.6 per cent.

Spreads and milks most likely to carry omega-3 claims

The key dairy sectors in terms of omega-3 claims were yellow fats (or spreads) and milks, accounting for just over 80 per cent of global launches using either omega-3 or DHA claims (or both) in the 12 months to the end of October 2013.

While the actual number of launches featuring omega-3 claims was not vastly dissimilar in each of the two categories, the significance was very different, according to Innova Market Insights. Omega-3 claims featured in just over 10 per cent of yellow fats introductions, compared with a more modest 3 per cent of the far more numerous milk and milk drink introductions over the same period.

The positioning of yellow fats with omega-3 claims has changed in recent years, with the original claims regarding cholesterol maintenance and heart circulatory health now starting to give way to more generalised “health for all the family” or “active healthy living” positionings.

Spain is Europe’s biggest omega-3 milks market

Spain is the European leader in omega-3 milks, reflecting the highly developed status of the functional milks sector as a whole, according to Innova Market Insights.

Calcium-fortified lines are very well established and lead the functional milks market, but more recently there has been rising interest in heart health (Corazon) milks, particularly omega-3 lines, which accounted for 6 per cent of total milk introductions in the 12 months to the end of October 2013.

US also saw omega-3 fortified milks gain popularity

Across the Atlantic, the US also saw rising interest in omega-3 fortified milks, with Innova Market Insights data indicating that nearly 8 per cent of US milk launches in the 12 months to the end of October 2013 featured omega-3 claims, even further ahead of the global figure of 3 per cent.

“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.