NBJ Summit: The omega-3 recap

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Written by: Adam Ismail

I just returned from the NBJ Summit in California, which Is a great event for networking with leaders in the nutrition industry as well as getting the opportunity to hear from some very unique speakers. Omega-3s were a frequent theme throughout the conference, but not always in the best light. Here are some of my observations from the conference:


  • Building consumer confidence in supplements is going to be important going forward and there are a lot of people watching what the omega-3 industry does with its consumer education campaign to see if it can be a model for the rest of the supplement industry.

  • Dr. Jørn Dyerberg, one of the fathers of omega-3 research, was awarded the Nutrition Business Journal Lifetime Achievement award. Obviously we think this is well-deserved, he won the GOED equivalent of this award at the first GOED Exchange in 2011.  He also previewed a very interesting new study that will be published soon looking at the health impacts of rTG oils compared to ethyl esters.

  • Simon Sinek, a world-recognized expert on leadership, gave a great talk about how to be a better leader, but during the Q&A portion he made a very illuminating point about omega-3s. He was asked for his impressions of the supplement industry, and he said he felt like the industry misleads consumers despite the fact that we had very good products. To support his argument, he said that when he goes to buy a fish oil, the labels will often say “Fish Oil 1000mg” but from a consumer perspective he is not buying fish oil for all the non-omega-3 stuff in the product. It makes him feel like he is being taken advantage of by supplement brands. It is a classic example of how a technical specification works its way onto a label and then becomes the standard name for a product. This has happened countless times in many supplement categories, but he has a point. The only thing that matters is consumer perception. I gave a presentation at SupplySide West last year where we highlighted that in the era of the informed consumer, the best thing we can do is to give the consumer more information and make sure it is accurate. This may mean putting the EPA and DHA content front and center on the label, and moving away from technical specifications as part of the product names.

  • During a debate on GMOs, one of the speakers made the point that Intel is proud to say that products have “Intel Inside” and the GMO industry has shied away from being proud that consumer products carry their ingredients. To emphasize what Simon Sinek was saying, I think this applies to the omega-3 industry too. We should be proud to say how much EPA and DHA are in our products, especially on the front of the label.

  • There was a panel on personalized medicine that was one of the best discussions I have ever seen at a conference. Dr. Larry Smar, an astrophysicist at CalTech, has been quantifying his own health for nearly two decades now, including monitoring his omega-3 index regularly over time. The Quantified Self movement promises to be a significant driver of health-related purchases in the future and the mobile phone may be the driver of it. Some of the doctors on the panel noted that patients used to bring printouts of pages from WebMD with info on conditions they were concerned about, but now are starting to bring actual data that has been tracked on their phone related to things like their resting heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc. Omega-3s should benefit from this trend. By the way, Larry gave a great TED talk on this topic that you can see below.

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