The webinar, which can be heard here upon request, covered a wide range of topics of interest to industry players, including market forces, consumer perceptions, and the like.

The speakers were: Adam Ismail, CEO of GOED; Sam Wiley, CEO of Wiley’s Finest; Bill Harris, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of South Dakota and president of the omega-3 testing company OmegaQuant Analytics; and Jon Clinthorne, PhD, scientific affairs and nutritional education manager for vitamin Cottage health food retailers.

Sizing the market

Ismail led things by taking a look at how the market is doing. GOED compiles a lot of sales data and recently introduced an internal data function. He offered the organization’s view of the market with one major caveat: GOED is not primarily a market research organization. There are now so many research firms competing for market reports that there are huge variations in the size of these firms in the various markets in which they compete, and the omega-3 market is no different in that regard. After all, they can’t all say the same thing and still differentiate themselves, which results in some reports being clear outliers.

“We don’t make any predictions,” said Ismail. “We believe that every brand should take a look at the data and make their own judgments.”

With that said, Ismail said that it looks like the global market has returned to a modest growth rate of somewhere in the 2% to 3% range. The U.S. market, which was actually in decline a few years ago, appears to have returned to growth, Ismail said, even though it’s only around 1% to 2%. The market for omega-3 fatty acids in Europe is stagnating, so that Asia / Pacific is the most important growth driver.

Keep omega-3 fatty acids in the foreground

A few years ago, GOED ran a national advertising campaign to remind consumers of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Ismail said the campaign was successful, although its impact was limited by its small size. Companies contributed to the effort, but not enough to launch a “Got Milk?” Scale campaign. Campaign that everyone seems to be citing as a successful example of raising an entire category.

© iStock / Kagenmi

However, according to Ismail, one important lesson emerged from this process: the soft patch that the market came across was not primarily caused by some negative headlines questioning the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids. Rather, it was because consumers weren’t regularly informed about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, so these products weren’t on their mind when they went to the store.

Wiley, whose company works with retail stores to educate consumers about the benefits of its Omega-3-Omega-3 line from Alaskan Pollock, agreed. “The main reason consumers get out of the category is because they simply forgot to buy the product again when they ran out,” he said.

Along with Wiley and Ismail, Clinthorne weighed what his company sees when talking to consumers about omega-3 fatty acids. Natural Grocers, which uses a significant portion of its retail space to stockpile nutritional supplements, is committed to using a nutritionist for each of its 140+ stores, located primarily in the western United States

In addition to the article on education, Harris shared some of the latest research on omega-3 fatty acids. This included an interesting study of NFL players who followed four groups of players (three variable-dose and one placebo group) through a season measuring blood markers for brain trauma, which is a major problem for the league and sport in general. While the study design has obvious flaws (the potential for brain trauma varies by position, a player’s actual playing time, etc.), the results have been fascinating and worth further research, Harris said.

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