Frutarom offers omega-3 dairy formulation
food systems service for dairy products - a development that will
allow customers to tap opportunities in the functional dairy
Frutatrom, which has its global headquarters in Israel, says that the inclusion of omega-3, a notoriously sensitive bioactive, is possible thanks to its "latest production technology" which protects the oil from oxidation and thus prevents impairment of taste and flavour. It has not revealed whether this technology involves microencapsulation, a method increasingly favoured by ingredient suppliers to enable the use of the essential fatty acid in consumer food products. Dairy products are regarded as suitable carriers for healthy and functional ingredients - such as cholesterol-lowering plant sterols and probiotic bacteria, as well as omega-3. Part of the draw is their convenience and ease of incorporation into daily habits, but it also helps that dairy already has a healthy halo. Frutatom's Food Systems creates "all in one" food preparations incorporating ingredients - be they fruits, flavours, stabilisers or bioactives - to each customer's individual requirements. The new line uses fish oil as standard, generally agreed to be the most bioavailable source of long-chain fatty acids DHA and EPA. However when end products have to meet vegetarian standards, the company can also supply oil of plant origin (its Alina oil from sage seeds). Frutarom has given a couple of examples of the kinds of products that its technology enables: 'Yellow Submarine' lemon-flavoured yoghurt; and macchiato-flavoured 'Smooth and Tender' yoghurt drink. These concepts highlight the importance of taste and pleasure for functional foods. Gone are the days when healthy was expected to taste horrid. Today's consumer, so market analysts tell us, want it all: taste, health, convenience and price. As omega-3 gains ever more recognition and starts to slip into the mainstream, the premiums at which added-value products tend to be sold are likely to be diminished. Frutarom is not alone in recognising opportunities in the omega-3 dairy market. Earlier this year Tate & Lyle launched its Enrich programme, also aimed at adding ingredients without impairing taste. The dairy arm of this includes an option for the addition of omega-3, as well as calcium, proteins, vitamins and choline. Estimates put the European omega-3 at around €160m in 2004, with Frost and Sullivan and Euromonitor International forecasting average annual growth of eight per cent to 2010. Leatherhead Food International is presently conducting research with the aim of providing an up-to-date figure. Sales of functional dairy products, meanwhile, are set to rise 48 per cent in Western Europe and 37 per cent in the US up to 2010, according to market research group Euromonitor International.