Over the last decade, consumer attitudes toward fats have evolved. Once considered the primary dietary evil—before sugar took on the mantle—consumers now recognize that some fats are an important part of a healthy diet.
Case in point: Awareness has risen that trans fats are best avoided, but that omega fatty acids may offer potential benefits when adopting a long-term approach to health. However, this does not mean consumers know how much fat they should have in their diet or that they are actively seeking these ingredients.
FMCG Gurus research conducted over the period Q3 2019 across 26 countries found 82% of consumers acknowledged having heard of omega-3, and 75% associated it with having a positive impact on health. However, when it comes to health and wellness, consumers can often demonstrate an attitude/behavior gap—and the omega fatty acids market is no exception.
The research conducted last year found that while most consumers associated omega-3 with having a positive impact on health, only 43% said they keep a look out for products that contain the ingredient. Moreover, only 28% stated they knew what their recommended intake of omega-3 should be. This highlights several issues. First, consumers do not necessarily seek out every ingredient they associate with boosting health. And something like omega-3s may fall behind prioritization of products highlighting more popular ingredients such as protein, fiber and calcium. Additionally, even if consumers are seeking out the ingredient, a lack of awareness over daily recommend intake means they still might not have enough in their diet.
As consumers are becoming more conscious about their health in a pandemic environment, the omega fatty acids market needs to look for ways to address this attitude/behavior gap. When asked what benefits omega-3 is most associated with, consumers who keep an eye out for products identified “help reduce the risk of nerve disease” (47%) and “help with age-related health problems” (45%) as the two main benefits. Omega-3 studies in mice revealed these polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) could lead to beneficial effects after a peripheral nerve injury (Journal of Neuroscience. 2012;32:563-571), perhaps due to the regenerative and possibly protective properties of a combined eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) oral administration (Front Pharmacol. 2017;8:723). On the human side, one clinical study indicated omega-3 DHA and EPA may have a positive effect on prolonged survival in subjects with coronary heart disease (JAMA. 2010;303:250-257).
Across the globe, consumers are taking a proactive and long-term approach to health maintenance as they look to stay fit and active until as late in life as possible. The notion of healthy aging is something that should be promoted more by the industry to help address the attitude/behavior gap. As always, brands also need to be cognizant of the regulations governing claims language to ensure they are properly validating any promotion of an ingredient’s potential benefits.
Editor’s note: This article is based on the FMCG Gurus Omega & Fatty Acids survey series, which surveyed 26,000 consumers across 26 countries, Q3 2019. For more information, please contact [email protected]
Will Cowling is marketing manager at FMCG Gurus.