The future for Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) looks the most promising of all the functional food ingredients currently available, according to industry analysts.

Growing consumer demand for super-fortified foods has helped foster a European market worth US$195m for Omega-3 PUFAs, accounting for 28% of the global market volume.

Recent analysis by Frost & Sullivan shows that while the annual growth rate for the total European Omega-3 PUFA market in 2003 was 11%, it is likely to stabilise at a lower rate of 8% in the coming years. Europe is a more mature market compared to the United States where some key market participants are experiencing growth rates of over 20%.

“Increased media coverage and product availability have helped differentiate Omega-3 and Omega-6 PUFAs from saturated fats, promoting Omega-3 PUFAs as ‘good fats’, which are an essential part of the diet,” said Kathy Brownlie, industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan.

On the other hand, unclear legislation requirements in the European Union remain a challenge for the PUFA market. The absence of a specific recommended daily intake (RDI) is further restricting marketing efforts, weakening the impact of packaging and promotional messages.

“Nonetheless, there has been increasing interest shown by foreign PUFA manufacturers to enter the European market,” Brownlie said.

“At least 50% of the global PUFA manufacturers are currently active in the European market at one or more stages of the supply chain,” she added.