DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, has increasingly been linked to brain and eye health by a number of scientific studies, something that has not escaped the attention of consumers.
And last month, Danone Canada took advantage of the ingredient's growing popularity with the launch of its Danino yoghurt for children, the company's first functional product to target the age group.
"People are starting to realise that it's not just omega-3 but DHA in particular that has many positive effects," said Danone Canada nutritionist Manon Cormier.
The use of DHA in Canada is still relatively limited, used primarily in products like eggs and milk, which are fortified through the nutrition of the animal.
Incorporating the component into a finished product is not quite so easy, according to Danone Canada, which said it faced a number of challenges to achieve the desired taste and texture.
Canadian Fish and functional ingredient firm Ocean Nutrition is Danone's supplier for DHA.
Danino, which comes in four fruit flavors, contains 20mg of DHA per 100g serving, while maintaining the same nutritional components of other yoghurts, such as vitamin D, calcium and protein.
"Many Canadians have a DHA deficient diet- particularly children and pregnant women. The most recent scientific data indicates that the adequate daily intake of DHA for children is 70 to 90mg," said nutritionist and epidemiologist Michel Lucas.
DHA is essential for the development of the nervous system and visual abilities in babies and for the proper functioning of the brain in adults. But because the human body cannot produce sufficient amounts of DHA for the needs of the eye and brain, it must be consumed through foods, such as cold water fatty fish, or in supplemental form.
And according to neurologist and author Dr David Perlmutter, "DHA is a major deficiency in the American diet because dietary sources are primarily limited to fish. Yet, it is a lifetime nutrient that plays a crucial role in brain development in infants and ongoing brain and eye function in children and adults."
Danino is the second recent functional launch by Danone Canada, which in December introduced Cardivia yoghurt targeted at adults. The product contains 300mg omega-3 and is marketed as beneficial for heart health. It is already proving almost as popular as the company's well-known Activia probiotic yoghurt.
Indeed, when it comes to functional yoghurts, parent company Danone International is a global leader in the field. The French dairy giant has 700 researchers working at its Vitapole research center in Palaiseau, France. The center focuses on the development of new products in the firm's three major product segments: yoghurt, water and biscuits.
According to Cormier, Danone International will be keeping a close eye on Danino, which is currently only available in Canada.
"It is early days and we are still evaluating the product. When a new product is launched, people are curious, they want to try it. The question is, will they buy it again?" she told FoodNavigator-USA.com.