264 inform April 2009, Vol. 20 (4)
Raw material sources for the
long-chain omega-3 market:
Trends and sustainability. Part 2.
Editor’s note: This paper is an update of a presentation delivered at oil market is somewhat complex, with many companies and many
the 99th AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo in Seattle, Washington, USA, joint ventures and/or strategic alliances involved at various layers
May 19, 2008. The first part of this article appeared in the March within the industry. This structure is shown in Figure 1 (Bimbo
2009 issue of inform. 2007).
The base of the market is the producer of crude fish oil. Every
Anthony P. Bimbo producer wants to be involved in this market, seduced by the $13
billion pie, but only a few have the patience, stamina, and financial
support to pursue it. Most of the nutraceutical fish oil producers
are large chemical or nutritional oil companies that have installed
nutrACeutICAl (omegA-3) FIsh oIls expensive processing facilities to produce a final food- or phar-
A recent report from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA maceutical-grade fish oil. Unfortunately their plants are relatively
(GOED 2008, where EPA is eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA is small and not suited for removal of the macro impurities in the
docosahexaenoic acid) indicates that the omega-3 market has crude oil. That job is left to the semi-refined and refined fish oil
reached $13 billion. Actually, about $180 million covers raw mate- producers who generally are capable of degumming; alkali refin-
rials, $1.28 billion covers refined oils and concentrates, and $13.1 ing; carbon, silica, and clay bleaching; and possibly winterizing.
billion covers consumer products. The structure of the omega-3 fish There is some overlap between the semi-refiner and the refiner,
and there might also be some overlap between the refiner and the
nutraceutical fish oil producer. There are also strategic alliances and
joint ventures along the way. Companies in the middle of the chain
want to lock up the basic raw materials at the bottom of the chain.
Generally the finishing steps in the process involve the removal of
FOOD M E D IC A L H E A LT H F O O D the micro impurities and contaminants as well as the concentration
COMPANY FOOD SUPPLEM ENT or purification of the omega-3 fatty acids. All of these processing
FO RM ULATO R PRODUCER steps produce a large volume of by-products, which must be dis-
posed of or utilized.
Figures 2 and 3 outline the processing steps involved in the
R e m o ve s con tam in an ts, production of these types of oils. These previously appeared in a
N U T R A C E U TIC A L ch o le ste ro l, o xid a tio n 1998 INFORM article (Bimbo 1998) but still have relevance. There
F IS H O IL p ro d u cts. F ra ctionate s
PRODUCER th e o il. C o n cen tra te s or
might be other processing steps, for example enzymatic processes,
p u rifie s E P A and D H A . but these are generally proprietary and not disclosed.
A d d s a n tio xid a nts.
E n ca p su la te s.
R E F IN E D
other sourCes oF omegA-3 oIls
F IS H O IL In addition to the traditional sources of the omega-3-desirable fish
PRODUCER R e m o ve s fre e fatty
a cid s, co lo r, h e a vy oils, there are other sources either just entering the marketplace
m e ta ls, stea rin e , or in the pipeline. These other sources are much more expensive
S E M I-R E F IN E D o xid a tio n p rod u cts
a n d p ro te cts the o il than fish oil but are now of interest as the price of fish oil skyrock-
F IS H O IL
PRODUCER w ith a n tio xid a n ts. eted during 2006–2008 and then retreated. Figure 4 shows the his-
M igh t w in te rize . toric run-up in the price of crude fish oil C&F [cost and freight]
C o n tro ls fre e fatty First of all, to put things into perspective, the fish oil price peak
a cid s, m o istu re a n d in 1998 during the major El Niño event was unprecedented. Before
C R U D E F IS H O IL im p u ritie s, o xid a tio n