New Beech-Nut Naturals First Advantage baby food is fortified with DHA and comes in a broad range of flavors such as Cinnamon Raisin Rice Pudding and Sweet Potato Soufflé.
Medium chain triacylglycerides (MCTs), diacyglycerols (DAG) and polyunsaturated fats—from nuts to grains—all are marketed for their health benefits.

However, if one finds intrigue in the twists and turns of nutrition, few components may be more interesting to track than omega fatty acids. Duped as one of the “good fats,” mainstream media's awareness of their benefits grew after the lowfat movement of the early 1990s.

A typical scenario for nutritional or medicinal components is that, first, their popularity grows. Then, as though media feels the ingredient may have “gotten too big for its britches,” it looks for man-bites-dog stories where even insignificant negative research on the component becomes highly publicized.

The health benefits of omegas, however, continue to be supported by a steady stream of positive research. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Rockville, Md., has not yet granted a health claim. This has not stopped companies here, or those in other parts of the world, from attributing benefits to their omega products.

The big news in the U.S. in 2002 was the incorporation of two forms of omega fatty acids, DHA and AA, in baby formulas. Evidence strongly supports the importance of these polyunsaturated fatty acids in brain and eye development in the womb. They also are present in breast milk. While expansion into products for older children is occurring in other countries, it has been slower here. One exception is Milnot Holdings's Beech-Nut Nutrition, Fort Washington, Penn., which introduced Beech-Nut Naturals First Advantage, a line of DHA fortified baby foods, in mid-2002.

For the older crowd, hemp and, particularly, flaxseed-based ingredients, are gaining in popularity, partially due to their omega fatty acid content. For example, under the Omega Life brand, PureSource, Ont., Canada, recently introduced a flaxseed oil-based margarine with “expeller-pressed and identity-preserved oils, [and] no hydrogenated trans fats,” that is “low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free.” Hodgson Mill, Effingham, Ill., recently launched Milled Flax Seed. “It is made with whole grain and is free from saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol, and salt. It is claimed to be a good source of fiber and contains 2600mg of omega-3,” notes Mintel's GNPD.

In North America, pet foods remain one of the most popular categories for omega fatty use. Claudia's Canine Cuisine's, Sherwood Ark., new Gourmet Dog Treats “contain omega-3 and omega-6 to promote a shiny coat and healthy skin.” The claim is both well supported by research and is used throughout the globe for pet products.

Supplemental Offerings

As would be expected, the dietary supplement industry is ahead of the food industry in offering products with sophisticated nutritional messages and formulations.

Last year, NOW Foods, Bloomingdale, Ill., launched Super Omega 3-6-9 soft gels made with borage, flaxseed, and fish oil. The GNPD notes the more recent introduction of Webber Naturals Omega 3-6-9 dietary supplements by WN Pharmaceuticals, British Columbia, Canada. These soft gels contain flaxseed pumpkin seed and borage oil. Yet another such soft gel is offered by Bronson Laboratories, American Fork, Utah, in the form of Bronson Complete Omega 3-6-9, sold over the Internet or by mail.

The GNPD lists 33 new products introduced globally with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). All were dietary supplements, beverages or nutrition bars with the exception of Spain's Industrias Rodríguez. This company introduced CLA-containing Fibraline Biscuits (cookies) under the Virginias brand.

Other fats and oils specifically used for their nutritional benefits have had a bit of a lower profile this year. For example, formulated with 0.1% high-oleic safflower oil and 9.5% fractionated coconut oil (MCTs), Abbott Lab's Ross Products', Columbus, Ohio, new Similac Alimentum brand hydrolysate formula powder for infants makes use of these components. Due to a different metabolic pathway, MCTs provide quicker energy than fats with longer chain fatty acids and thus are of benefit in sports products. For example, MET-Rx, Irvine, Calif., Protein Plus food bars contain MCTs. However, MCTs also perform as a functional additive, such as a clouding agent in Mead Johnson Nutritionals', Evansville, Ind., Boost Breeze Energy Drink.

Much of the information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database,, 312-932-0400.

Sidebar: Going Global

Multinational companies blanket the globe with products similar in formulation and marketing messages. Some are offered only outside the U.S. and Canada, and one wonders how soon it will be before similar products are offered here. At the other end of the scale, small companies often launch innovative products that larger companies soon will copy. Here's a look at a few foreign products.

Holland-based Green Finance released Tyrni Öljy, “a seabuckthorn oil high in vitamins, minerals and omega fatty acids” into the Finnish market. The recommended intake is “a teaspoon per day,” notes the GNPD.

Hagoromo Foods of Japan, which manufactures and sells over 1000 types of food products, incorporated diacylglycerol, a cholesterol-lowering lipid, into its Sea Chicken brand of tuna flakes. The co-branded product is said to be fat- and salt-free and targets senior citizens (those above 55 years of age).

In late 2002, Peter Möller, Norway's largest manufacturer of cod liver oil and omega-3 products for consumer markets, introduced into Finland a variety pack with two types of capsules. The first contains vitamins A, B (including folic acid), C, D and E, as well as magnesium, iron, iodine, chrome, zinc and selenium. The second type contains omega-3 fatty acids. Presumably, consumers are to take one of each for optimal health.

Natrodale, South Africa, introduced Heart Smart in early 2002. Its ingredient list includes salmon oil (450mg), vitamin C (30mg), vitamin E (15mg), beta-carotene (3mg), folic acid (100µg), grape seed extract (10mg) and “odourless garlic” (5mg), among other items.

Said to “help maintain a healthy system, a donation is made to the Christian Barnard Foundation with every purchase.” In 1967, Dr. Barnard, a South African, performed the first open heart transplant in history.