On September 8, 2004, the FDA gave a “qualified health claim” status to eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) fatty acids, both of which fall under the omega-3 banner, stating that research suggested the consumption of EPA and DHA fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. From that point, the natural occurrence of omega-3 in consumer packaged goods products, and those fortified with omega-3, touted the ingredients’ health benefits.

Since 2004, further research has suggested that omega-3 can also help with immune system health and improved brain function--for infants, children and adults. Correlating to this added functionality, an influx of new products over the last two years--across food and beverages--has been tied to the different functionalities that best meet the needs of target consumers.

Growth in new products with omega-3 should continue over the next few years in the U.S. Americans are becoming increasingly familiar with functional foods and beverages, and omega-3 is one of the functional ingredients most familiar to them. However, as they look to more natural ways to get their vitamins and nutrients, consumers may shy away from products offering chemically fortified omega-3. The challenge will be to find ways to use ingredients that offer naturally occurring omega-3 in products across categories.