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Neptune tapping into China’s supplements market

By Kacey Culliney, 22-Nov-2011

Related topics: Business, Fortification, Functional foods and drinks

Canadian krill oil supplier, Neptune, has teamed up with a local fishing company in a bid to tap into China’s fast growing and emerging omega-3 supplements market.

Wael Massrieh, vice president, scientific affairs of Neptune Technologies and Bioressources told FoodNavigator-Asia that the company had its eyes on this emerging market for many years but that this is Neptune’s “first venture of this scale and with this potential for success.”

The joint venture with Shanghai KaiChuang Deep Sea Fisheries (SKFC) will leverage an established collaboration as SKFC has been Neptune’s krill supplier for a long time, he explained.

“This will provide us with quality control and assurance from capture to commercialisation,” added Massrieh.

Challenges in penetrating the market

Commercialisation of the venture is underway, said the VP of scientific affairs at Neptune with the company having started the application process.

Massrieh explained that to enter the supplements market in China, a company must register its products with the State Food and Drug Administration (SDFA).

If registering a product as a functional food, which includes supplements, there is a choice of 27 health claims that a company can file, ranging from enhancing immunity, improving sleep, improving child growth and development and facilitating digestion.

The process is more demanding as these claims need to be supported by clinical evidence for the same encapsulated finished product, he said.

“There are issues and challenges in any market. The ones particular to China are those from a regulatory side, since they are very different than what is required in the US, Europe or Australia,” said Massrieh.

He noted that the joint venture with SKFC puts Neptune in a very good position as it is a government-owned company with the right ties that has been facilitating the registration process of the products in China.

Radhika Puri, a Frost & Sullivan associate, previously told this publication that opportunities in the Asia Pacific functional food market would be best realised through collaboration with Asian companies, as competition is high.

China’s fast-growing omega-3 market

Adam Ismail, executive director of global omega-3 association GOED, previously told FoodNavigator-Asia that, “the Asian market for omega-3 is probably the fastest growing market regionally at a rate of between 40 and 50% a year… it’s pretty exciting.”

GOED, of which Neptune is a member, is working in China to educate the industry about the benefits of fish oils and encourage responsible growth and high quality.

Massrieh agreed that there is a lack of knowledge on the exact benefits of omega-3s but he noted that this concern was not unique to China, it is a problem in the US and Europe too.