Key Interview: Krill Oil is Game Changer in Omega-3 Space

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23 Jan 2017 --- Leading krill oil supplier Aker BioMarine is looking to R&D and innovation in order to differentiate its products within the crowded Omega-3 space. CEO of the company, Matts Johansen believes innovation is certainly necessary in this space, as omega 3 players look to stand out in a market that is only just starting to recover from years of overcapacity and negative press coverage.

FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with Johansen, who has been CEO for almost two years and has been with the company since 2009, whilst he addressed some of the changes in the krill oil market. 

“Luckily for us our company is quite diverse,” he says. “The main purpose for me is to clarify the direction for the company and try to motivate everyone and create an environment where everyone can do the best possible job. We are a biotech company, and in order to us to be out there on the edge, we must think differently, to put us in good stead against our competitors.”

Why is there such a great demand from consumers for Omega-3? “Omega-3 is one of the most researched nutrients out there, there is so much data, showing you how important Omega-3 is for different aspects for health and that has been the driving force behind that.”

“But krill oil is now a new alternative in this space,” he remarks, “There is demand for krill oil (it has been flat for the last few years), but as companies see that the soft Omega-3 period is behind us, krill oil is now gaining momentum.” 

“Omega-3 is a big category, it has become commoditized, so it’s difficult for brands to differentiate themselves and create a unique story,” Johansen notes. “So when krill came along, it was an easy story to tell, there were clear differentiators, it even had a different color being red and it was coming from Antarctica. This whole new story was one that worked really well. Even with the negative development of Omega-3 over the last couple for years we remain optimistic.”

According to Johansen, Aker BioMarine is taking responsibility for its customers’ success of the product. “Traditional transactions-based sales approach is outdated, hence we need to invest in developing long-lasting partnerships with our customers. At Aker BioMarine we are taking this very seriously and this means that we are implementing our strategy around these trends, bringing to our customers the insights, ideas and solutions linked to our products, so we can help them drive success.”

“As a krill specialist, we are in the best position to come up with ideas of how brands can educate  consumers, we are experts on the features, advantages and benefits our products hold through all the scientific research we do. Our customers have the channels to the consumers so they can actually execute those ideas and drive that consumer awareness,” he explains. 

The current and most typical buyers of krill oil and Omega-3 are females over the age of 50, but according to Johansen this is one of the areas that Aker BioMarine is hoping to change. “We are traditionally in the Omega-3 supplements space targeting cardiovascular health,” he continues, “Omega-3 krill oil should be just as important to younger people as well as older groups. So we have been focusing on scientific research that targets younger people, we had a breakthrough earlier last year, where we started an R&D program, involving the world’s toughest army recruits and how krill oil can improve their resilience, performance and ability to deal with tough situations.”

The program involves more than 400 US Army soldiers, exploring some key areas where krill oil might improve performance. Johansen said that physical, psychological and cognitive functions were elements that might be affected by krill oil. He says: “These guys were already the smartest, strongest and toughest and by taking krill oil they could potentially be even smarter, stronger and tougher. That’s an attractive positioning towards younger people, and a good example of how krill oil can work with knowledge and science to be able to attract new segments for our products.”

What other trends are you looking to address? “There is a growing demand for performance products and this will be a likely trend for 2017. There is more focus on performance, whether it be at work, socially or in the gym so for us, having products that target nutrition and performance, is a key area for us,” claims Johansen. “For Aker BioMarine to be able to have products that are positioned in performance and sport will be important.” 

“From a channel perspective, we are already starting to see a big trend towards E-Commerce and that is likely to get bigger and better. Its importance is growing and it is going to be a challenge for many of the traditional players in this industry. The younger generations and smaller companies are starting to embrace these channels in a whole different way now, so that will also be a development to watch out for.” 

“Last but not least is the sustainability aspect,” notes Johansen, “For Aker BioMarine being a company that fishes krill, we are always going to have sight on sustainability. Previously sustainability was not always on top of the agenda for companies but the last years things are shifting, being sustainable has become a competitive advantage. We are reaching a tipping point now, so we need to make sure that our products are sourced sustainably, and without harming the planet,” he concludes. 

by Elizabeth Kenward

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