Chinese cooking oil success shows omega-3 fortification potential

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cooking oil Nutrition

Booming sales of omega-3 fortified cooking oil in China may show how countries with nutritional deficiencies can boost the nutritional intakes of a population, said a leading omega-3 figure.

Since the launch of Wilmar International’s Arawana 3A+ premium cooking oil in China last July, sales have rocketed to 65,000 metric tons. “In terms of bottles, that’s more than 25 million bottles sold since its launch,” ​said Chen Bo, director of consumer goods business division for the Yihai Kerry Group, a subsidiary of Wilmar International.

The product was launched to address nutritional insufficiencies in the Chinese population, where the average daily intake of EPA/DHA of Chinese residents is reportedly only 37.6mg/day, according to the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China. That’s less than 25 percent levels accepted by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The cooking oil reportedly delivers an omega-3 dose equivalent to 450mg EPA/DHA per 100g serving. The product is the result of an exclusive deal, signed last year between Singapore-based Wilmar International and Ocean Nutrition Canada, and has over five years of R&D behind it.

Speaking exclusively with recently, Mr Chen said that, in addition to the R&D commitment, the company has spent about $100 million in education efforts, including television campaigns, and over 30,000 road shows.

 “More than 3 million people in the Chinese population understand the benefits of this product,” ​he added.

Bridging the nutrition gap

Robert Orr, CEO of Ocean Nutrition Canada, supplier of the omega-3 ingredient used in oil, hailed the cooking oil as “unique”​.

“We’ve seen one or two other cooking oils with omega-3s but nothing to this level, where they’re adding over 130 milligrams of EPA and DHA into a single [30 gram] serving of cooking oil,”​ said Orr. “That’s very, very significant loading targeted at bridging the nutrition gap: China has the lowest level of EPA and DHA intake in the developed world.

“Wilmar was extremely innovative in identifying this gap and their commitment was to look at the US IOM identification of a level of 160 mg per day, and they chose to do five year’s of formulation work to bridge that entire gap and put 130 mg of EPA and DHA in a single serving of cooking oil.

“There is nothing in the world that compares to this particular product,”​ he said.

“The R&D innovation was in the formulation of the various oils that Wilmar brings in from around the world to get a taste profile that is actually preferred by the consumer over their traditional cooking oils.

“In blind tasting, over 80 percent of consumers preferred the taste of this product,”​ he added.

A model

Adam Ismail, the executive director of omega-3 trade association GOED, said he hoped to see these types of products filtering around the world in the coming years.

“One of the most innovative things about this Wilmar product is that they are taking a product, a staple, that is consumed by a massive part of the population, and fortifying it with a nutrient where there’s a severe insufficient intake,”​ said Ismail.

“We’ve certainly seen success in other cases with vitamins and minerals in similar types of products.

“I think it’s a model that a lot of other countries where the nutritional deficiencies are just as bad can be replicated,”​ added Ismail.

Chen Bo, Robert Orr, and Adam Ismail spoke with Stephen Daniells at Expo West in Anaheim, California.

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