Alaskan Pollock is one of the oldest managed fisheries in the Pacific and one of the most productive. American Marine Ingredients is a division of American Seafoods Group, long active in the fishery, and is tasked with developing higher value products from this productive source.
“We finished development of the brand sometime in the middle of last year and spent some time determining how to take the product to market,” Richard Draves, vice president of product development at AMI told NutraIngredients-USA.
AMI’s product is the second omega-3 offering to be sourced from the fishery; the first was developed by Organic Technologies, an Ohio-based refiner of oil-based ingredients. Like that ingredient, AMI’s 54°North Omega-3 emphasizes the sustainability of the source and plays up the made-in-USA angle.
“The Alaskan Pollock fishery is the biggest food fishery in the world,” Draves said. “It’s the greatest fish that people don’t know about. Of course you can find it in your fast food restaurant fish sandwich, but a lot of our frozen fish goes overseas where it is really appreciated as a high quality white fish or is used as a high quality surimi base.” (Surimi is the fish paste that forms the base of prepared seafoods such as imitation crab and lobster meat.)
“We want to raise bring some awareness to Alaskan Pollock as a species. We want to raise the bar for Pollock,” he said.
Draves said sustainability and traceability are key attributes of the new finished product. The industry is on track to harvest 1.3 million tons of Pollock from the Bering Sea this year, and that harvest level has remained fairly constant for decades with the population of fish remaining fairly constant during that time, too. The Alaksan Pollock fishery was the first large-scale fishery to certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, generally regarded as the gold standard among fishery certifications.
“That harvest is right at the 10-year average. This fishery has been pursued since the mid 1960s and we are harvesting at the same levels now that we were then. We have great faith in the scientific community to manage this fishery in a sustainable way,” he said.
Traceability, freshness as differentiators
Being vertically integrated, AMI can say exactly where and when those fish were harvested, Draves said. This is a key differentiator from the mystery oils lurking along the bargain shelves, he said.
“The fact is that we can demonstrate where this fish was harvested. We have full traceability from sea to soft gel. It’s important for consumers who want that understanding of where their supplement comes from. There is a lot of obfuscation of the source of materials in this industry and we are very proud of being a fully made-in-the-USA product,” he said.
The company is offering a very high concentration omega-3 finished product; in every 1.25 gram soft gel there are 1000 mg of omega-3s broken down as 720 mg of EPA, 280 mg of DHA and 60 mg of other omega-3s. In addition to the high concentrations, 54°North Omega-3 offers a superior organoleptic experience, Draves said. Freshness means fewer complaints about the ‘fishy burps.’
“We went out and bought some inexpensive products in a local store and in just cutting the soft gels in half you could see that they are highly variable in quality. So it is not a surprise that there are complaints about fish burp and reflux when you have such a variance in quality,” he said.
“Our crude oil is processed right on the vessel at sea. The oil is extremely fresh. When you produce oil form very fresh fish you retain a natural amount of vitamin E and we do add a small amount of mixed tocopherols as a preservative,” he said.
54°North Omega-3 also includes vitamin D3, not because of any purposed synergistic effect with the fatty acids but because it is a nutrient of public health concern, Draves said.
“Americans don’t consume enough vitamin D and we are trying to help those people.”
With the kind of omega-3 concentration it is offering, AMI is not seeking to compete with garden-variety 18:12 oils, Draves said. The company has engaged the help of contract supplement manufacturing and marketing firm Nutritional Products International which has developed a marketing and distribution plan for the product, which is being sold online to start.
“We are not a big marketing company. We have to go with our strengths. We know about harvesting Pollock; we are the biggest harvester in the world. We partnered with NPI in Florida to leverage their ability to build brands and market supplements,” Draves said.