Saturday, July 19, 2008

Functional Superstar - Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a rising star in the world of functional foods. According to a 2007 study by the International Food Information Council out of Washington, DC, 71% of consumers report they are aware of Omega-3 fatty acids. This is up 8% from the previous year. Food manufactures are (or should be) taking notice of this important food trend. According to recent study by Packaged Facts in Rockville, MD, the market for omega-3 fortified foods has exploded from $100 million in 2002 to $2 billion in 2006. Impressive growth!

Just in case you are unfamiliar with omega-3 fatty acids and their health benefits, let me give you a quick summary. Omega-3's are naturally found in seafood, such salmon, tuna, mackerel and shellfish, as well as, some vegetation like flax seeds, walnuts, soy and canola oil. (Though the Omega-3's in seafood appear to pack a better healthy benefits punch than the plant derived Omega-3's.) The FDA has found enough supporting evidence to allow claims on food packaging that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, reduce the risk of coronary disease. In addition to the heart benefits there is evidence that long-chain omega-3's have benefits to brain development and functioning. Omega-3's have shown success in treating psychiatric disorders (such as major depressive disorder and schizophrenia) and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Also there is evidence that long-chain omega-3's also are successful in treating rheumatoid arthritis and reducing the risk of certain cancers, as well as, other ailments. (And just in case you were wondering, short-chain omega-3's are good too, but they don't pack nearly the healthy benefits of long-chain omega-3's. )

So, if you are a lucky manufacture of products that naturally have or are fortified with omega-3s, hopefully you are taking advantage of this consumer interest in this functional food's attributes. But what if you are a food manufacture who doesn't make a food product with omega-3's benefits, is there any way that you can get still hook your wagon to omega-3s shooting star? Absolutely! The fastest, simplest and easiest way is to provide your consumers with some recipes for your products that incorporate omega-3 rich ingredients. For example maybe you produce a branded crushed pineapple. You could provide an on-pack recipe for a simple pineapple salsa over grilled salmon. It would provide you with a great the opportunity to call out the omega-3 benefits of the recipe and your brands dedication to healthier living. Or maybe you produce a brand of breakfast baking mix. You could think about giving your consumers a recipe like Blueberry and Walnut Coffee Cake made with flax seed oil on an in-pack insert. You can use the space to tout your brand's dedication to helping your consumers make heart health choices. Almost any product can be pared with some form of ingredients that can produce recipes with functional benefits. It just takes dedication to that goal and a little creativity the kitchen. Delicious product specific recipes with functional benefits create great opportunities to tap into your consumers' desire for delicious better-for-you eating experiences.

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