6 Takeaways from the Last 3 Years in the Omega-3 Industry

It’s common knowledge that the omega-3 industry has been in a sales slump for the past few years. While the market is now showing signs of recovery, there are definitely some lessons to be learned from the activity over the last three years.

Lesson 1: The market was already maturing before the sales decline that started in mid-2013. The omega-3 industry had enjoyed years of double digit growth but as the market matured in North America, it was somewhat inevitable that those growth figures could not be maintained without increased industry investment in marketing and science.

Lesson 2: Yes, the challenges on omega-3 science hurt the industry. Of course this is obvious but the point is, it was not really just one story or research paper that made the difference. Many in the industry point to the Brasky prostate cancer paper that came out in July 2013 as a major factor, but that was just one link in a chain. GOED did considerable consumer research after that paper and was able to show that while it reverberated through the industry for some time after the publication, consumers had a much shorter attention span.

Lesson 3: What did hurt the industry was the constant drip of negative news in the consumer press questioning omega-3 benefits and repeating the same headlines from previous sensational article leads. Casting doubt on the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3s, for example, is the topic du jour. The issue is complicated so it doesn't lend itself well to 140 characters or oversimplified sensational headlines and it is resulting in a lot of consumer confusion.

Lesson 4: Equally important was the lack of positive news in the consumer press in the 2011-2014 time period (see chart).

positive versus negative consumer press


GOED consumer research shows that taking omega-3 supplements is part routine and if consumers don't hear those positive reminders about their benefits, they are less likely to maintain their routine or purchase another bottle. The consumer marketing campaign by GOED and the Omega-3 Coalition in 2015 was designed to provide a solution to this problem and our analysis shows that we did indeed make a difference (see chart).

consumer campaign results


The challenge is, this is an ongoing need and major advertising dollars are necessary to keep the message in front of consumers on a continuing basis.

Lesson 5: It is GOED’s belief that going forward, it’s most important to shore up the science around omega-3s so we can alleviate these doubts.  To this end, we have established an Executive Council on Education and Outreach that is investing in additional omega-3 science to address the questions being raised about the benefits of omega-3s.

Lesson 6: Lastly, it’s all about the messenger. GOED consumer research shows that in country after country consumers are influenced by their doctor’s advice, so getting buy-in from health practitioners is extremely important.  Similarly, research shows that if there is signage or a reminder at the retail point of purchase, consumers are more likely to buy a product, even if there’s not a discount or sales promotion offered. This is an easy way to teach the consumer about omega-3 benefits when they are most likely to buy.