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Sustainable Omega 3 consumption: a positive trend set to increase

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The size of the global omega 3 supplement industry has grown enormously in recent years, according to data gathered by international ecolabel Friend of the Sea about the rise in certified fish oil companies in 2018.

Friend of the Sea an international certification scheme for products from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

Evidence from the market shows that more and more consumers worldwide are demanding fish oils and nutrients that are not only healthy and of high quality, but are also respectful of the marine environment. After decades of campaigns by environmental activists and enlightened industry operators, the message has finally reached a rising number of eco-conscious individuals and households globally.

Friend of the Sea Standard for Omega 3. Back in 2010, Friend of the Sea, an independent certification scheme set up two years earlier to assess the environmental sustainability associated with seafood from fisheries and aquaculture, felt the urgent need to introducing a specific standard for producers of fish oil, fishmeal, fish feed and omega-3 supplements. According to this, accredited third-party certification bodies certify that the oil originates only from fisheries are compliant with Friend of the Sea sustainable fishing requirements, including good fishery management, selective fishing gears and social responsibility, and that a full chain of custody is in place throughout the supply and the production chain.

The fish contained in certified omega 3 products can be traced back to certified fisheries which have been independently assessed to meet Friend of the Sea’s widely recognised standard for sustainable wild fishing. These fisheries are well managed and their impacts on the environment minimised so that seafood supplies are safeguarded for future generations.

The origin of certified fish oil. 

Today 439 companies adhere voluntarily to Friend of the Sea’s standards for fish oil, fishmeal, fish feed and omega-3 supplement, an increase of around 477%  compared with 2015 when there were only 76.

“As the leading globally recognised standard program for sustainable seafood, we are enthusiastic about scoring and sharing the positive change in attitude towards environmental sustainability and social accountability occurring also in the nutraceutical sector,” says Paolo Bray, founder and director of Friend of the Sea. “Consumers worldwide can now have wider access to sustainable products on the shelves and we are convinced of an even brighter future for the sector.”

Certified oils originate mostly from approved Peruvian anchovy fisheries and fleet - Engraulis ringens  (29%), Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba, 22%), European sardine (Sardina pilchardus, 8%), European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus, 7%), Chub mackerel (Scomber japonicus, 7%) and Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua, 3%). The remaining 24% derives from various species such as salmon, tuna and squid which are equally certified, processed and usually refined and blended.

A circular economy approach to Omega 3. 

Of over 439 Friend of the Sea labelled enterprises, 17% are processors, while 83% are distributors. Recently, manufacturing companies have been processing by-cuts or trimmings from selected seafood, thus optimising the use of marine resources and avoiding the production of waste, embracing circular economy principles. Moreover, the industry has developed new extraction technologies considered more environmentally friendly, such as supercritical CO2 extraction, ultrasound and microwaves. These methods optimise the pre-treatment and the extraction process itself. Among these, the most effective is that based on CO2, in particular in terms of better product quality and minimal use of energy.

Top-5 countries for Friend of the Sea-labelled supplements. 

Friend of the Sea’s presence in the nutraceutical industry has grown considerably in the United States, which now accounts for more than 50% of total Friend of the Sea-certified supplements (268 companies), followed by France (24), Canada (23), Norway (20) and United Kingdom (14). Additionally, Friend of the Sea confirms the positive trend of key geographic areas such as China (10) and Spain (8), while acknowledging the important growth of the Brazilian and Turkish sustainable diet supplement markets.

Besides this, several Friend of the Sea-certified manufacturers are diversifying their production of fish oils by developing infant and pet-special dog formula fish oil omega 3s.

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