Innovation is what drives the supplements and functional foods business. Fish oils did not just rise up from the sea to become the most popular ingredient of our time. It took the concerted orchestration—led by one man in particular—to establish the foundation of the sector.
Innovation comes in many forms—a new botanical from the rainforest, a new extraction method, a new peptide or fraction, new research validating an old ingredient, a combination of ingredients that signal a more efficacious formulation, a new solution to a nagging health condition.
For one of today’s most popular ingredient on the market—fish oils—that innovation came by having quality and purity standards so that fish oils would not suffer the fate of its Atlantic farmed progenitors, which is too much mercury and other heavy metals.
Fish oils also suffer from the end effect of oxidation: the burps. “Supplements with fish oils can give you the fish oil experience throughout the day whenever you burp,” noted Eric Decker, professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts.
To ameliorate the dreaded burps, fish oil suppliers molecularly distill the oils to rid them of heavy metals. Emulsification technologies are also used to stabilize omega-3s. Mixing in tocopherols (vitamin E) as a natural preservative also helps to slow down the oxidation of omega-3s. Microencapsulation can protect omega-3s from secondary thermal processing for use in foods, extend shelf life and prevent ingredient interaction.
The fish oils pioneer in advancing the cause of microencapsulation is Ocean Nutrition Canada. Its PowderLoc technology is the equivalent of a double-hulled oil tanker that provides a double shell around the fish oil particles to protect from oxidation and rancidity.
During its infancy a decade ago, Ocean Nutrition Canada rallied the industry to get behind category-wide purity and quality standards so that there would never be any issues around heavy metals in the fish oil ingredient sector.
Ocean Nutrition Canada is also the company with the greatest sales volume into foods—characterized by the blockbuster deal this past year to get fish oil into China’s leading cooking oil, Wilmar’s Arawana 3A+ premium cooking oil. The Chinese (there are a lot of them, did you hear?) use a lot of cooking oil.
We can thank Robert Orr for these significant events.
Like Jobs, Orr stepped down from his duties as president/CEO but is chairman of the board of trustees.
Orr said Ocean Nutrition had evolved to a point where the skill set of company leaders called for someone different. When I spoke with him last week about his future plans, he said his expertise is “seeing a market need and building a company around that need.”
He certainly succeeded with fish oils.
I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.