The following information comes courtesy of BNP Media’s New Products magazine--Eds.

In the past 10 years, omega-3 fatty acids have exploded onto the global marketplace. Sold as healthy supplements and food additives, omega-3s such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are now familiar to many consumers. Consumption of omega-3s is claimed to reduce the risk and improve the conditions of six leading health concerns: heart disease, cancer, vision problems, arthritis, hypertension and lack of mental sharpness. With such a healthy profile, it is no wonder that omega-3 fatty acids have become a desirable additive and supplement for global shoppers.

Food and drink enhanced by healthy omega-3s first emerged in Japan in the late 1990s. For the most part, these innovative products contained added omega-3/DHA, claiming to enhance brain functions such as memory, learning and concentration. In 1997, Nippon Suisan launched Doraemon Sausage, fortified with DHA and claimed to stimulate the brain. With packaging featuring the cartoon character Doraemon, the product was clearly marketed for children. Because omega-3s play such a vital role in brain development, many early products in Asia were designed specifically for children.

Though Asia remains at the cutting edge of functional food development, many of the concepts that first emerged there have now been taken up by companies in the West. Dairy products are at the forefront of omega-3 product development in Europe and North America. However, around the globe, other food categories—such as eggs, bread and snacks--are showing strong, promising growth for omega-3s.

From margarine to yogurt to milk, dairy products enhanced by omega-3 fatty acids are a hot area of new product development. In the Netherlands, Unilever claims its Blue Band Idee! Margarine helps stimulate mental development. Containing the fatty acids DHA and ALA, as well as B vitamins, the margarine is marketed as suitable for the whole family, but it is especially recommended for children’s mental development.

Nestlé likewise positions its P'tit Yoco Oméga 3 Framboise Pomme-Poire Yogurt as a healthy product for children in France. Rich in omega-3 to aid in children’s brain development, the yogurt is also enriched with calcium and vitamin D.

P'tit Yoco Oméga 3 claims to contain just the right amount of sugar in portions “perfectly adapted to children.”

George Weston in Canada advertises the high DHA content of Neilson Dairy Oh! Milk, claiming the product can help support normal development of the brain, eyes and nerves. Featuring a sketch of a cow reading a book on the front of the milk carton, Neilson Dairy Oh! Milk is marketed for growing children. The milk is produced by Ontario dairy cows fed a unique diet containing the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. The milk is also fortified with vitamins A and D.

In addition to omega-3 products for growing children, many Asian products are developed for pregnant or nursing mothers, infants and toddlers. Powdered milks containing omega-3 fatty acids are said to promote the brain development and general health of infants. In the Philippines, for example, Mead Johnson Nutritionals features EnfaMama Nutritional Milk Drink. Formulated especially for pregnant and lactating mothers, the chocolate-flavored milk is enriched with DHA, claiming to support babies’ brain development.

Sari Husada markets a vanilla-flavored Growing Up Milk under its Vitalac brand in Indonesia. Containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids AA, DHA, FOS, inulin and lactoferrin, the milk claims to support brain development in children over one year old. The sweet vanilla flavor makes it especially suitable for toddlers.

Eggs, Bread and Snacks

As the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids become more widely known, food and beverage manufacturers are including them in a myriad of new products. Around the globe, omega-3 health claims are becoming more common on product packaging.

Eggs produced by free-range chickens have been identified as an important natural source of omega-3. In the U.S., Gold Circle Farms has been actively marketing its cage-free eggs as DHA-rich, because its chickens are fed a vegetarian diet rich in omega-3s. The company claims this special diet boosts the DHA content of the egg to 150mg, as opposed to 18mg for a regular egg. Gold Circle Farms positions its eggs as a way to enhance proper brain function, eye development and heart health.

In the U.K., Warburtons markets a bread specifically designed for women, especially pregnant woman. Good Health Loaf for Women contains calcium, folic acid and iron for general women’s health. Additionally, each 100g serving of bread contains the recommended daily allowance of omega-3 DHA, which is said to boost brain development in unborn children.

Even snacks have taken on omega-3 fatty acids, raising their nutritional profiles and appealing to health-minded consumers. In the U.K., Biomedical Laboratories features iQ3 Brainstorm! Fish Oil Cereal Bars. Made with omega-3 and omega-6 oils, the bars are marketed for children with the claim that they help concentration, as well as brain and eye function. Made of tasty cereal and real fruit, the packaging ensures parents and kids alike that the bars do not have a fishy taste. Biomedical Laboratories claims that one bar delivers the same omega-3 content as two of the company’s iQ3 capsules.

K Group in India also features a snack product enhanced by omega-3s. New Choice Mini Butter Cheese Crackers are butter- and cheese-coated round crackers said to be a good source of DHA, which can improve brain activity, build strong bones, prevent heart attacks and enhance eyesight. Also a good source of calcium, the crackers offer consumers a convenient way to increase DHA in the diet.

As omega-3 fatty acids become more widely known across the globe, the number of new food and drink products touting their benefits will increase. In the U.S. especially, substantiation of the health claims tied to omega-3s through research and recognition will drive new product development at a quick pace.

Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracks new product launches, trends, ingredients and innovations internationally. For additional information regarding GNPD, visit or call Mintel International at 312-932-0600.