A healthy future for plant-based omega oils

December 02, 2015 — Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Growing the demand for a new fish oil alternative

Ahiflower® oil is a plant-based omega-3 rich dietary oil available from PEI-based Nature's Crops International (NCI). An affordable and sustainable alternative to fish oil, this natural source of omega-3 fatty acids is a game changer in the nutritional oil market. The oil boasts the highest effective essential fatty acid content and is superior to other plant-derived oils, with an added advantage in that the crop can be grown effectively by independent farmers in cool maritime climates.

Discovered and developed initially as a crop in the UK exclusively by NCI, Ahiflower oil is now being produced at NCI's seed-oil refinery in Prince Edward Island. Ahiflower oil offers a balanced and beneficial omega-3+6+9 profile without the unpleasant flavour associated with fish oil. And to assure the refinement and purity of every batch, NCI maintains a hands-on approach, overseeing the entire development and production process—"from Soil to Oil… Naturally."

Having launched their product commercially to US and EU food and supplement brands in 2015, NCI was careful to enter the market with this novel trademarked ingredient safely, legally, and responsibly. To do so, NCI turned to NRC and its experts in product characterization methods.

Sustainable and affordable alternatives

Investing in personal health is a growing trend in North America, the EU, and Asia, generating a steady increase in demand for naturally-sourced, traceable, and clean-label food supplements. Confident that Ahiflower oil would take the omega oil market by storm, NCI sought a solution that would assist with their product characterization methods while assuring North American and EU regulatory bodies that only peer-reviewed and highly precise analytical methods were used to verify the product's purity.

Fully aware of this need, NRC's research team undertook the foundational work needed to validate Ahiflower oil's composition and purity, thereby confirming the oil's ability to provide an optimal daily intake of omega-3+6+9 oils without sacrificing flavour or convenience.

Together, NCI and NRC were then able to create a unique and proprietary production method to be used at NCI's refinery in Kensington. “Having the Canadian government-affiliated status and technical acumen of NRC located near our refinery meant that Ahiflower Oil could be launched in a timely manner,” said Steve Howatt, Senior Vice President with NCI.

Smoothing the approval to market

In the USA, any new food substance must go through a pre-market review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that it is generally recognized as safe or "GRAS". Aware of NCI's desire to release their product without delay, and attentive to the fact that any approval delays would slow Ahiflower oil's commercial entry, NRC provided sensitive scientific methods that supported the high purity of the oil and which facilitated the FDA GRAS review process. This same data also supported Ahiflower oil's recent successful EU Novel Foods status in July 2015.

When the FDA provided their response in December 2014, Ahiflower received full GRAS review status with no objections, having met all FDA requirements, an outcome that was assisted significantly by the thoroughness behind NRC's support. "Gaining FDA GRAS review status and EU Novel Foods approval was crucial to Ahiflower oil's global launch in 2015," said Mr. Howatt. "These approvals paved the way for nutrition companies to formulate health supplement, food, and beverage products that more sustainably serve consumers' omega nutritional needs."

Now that Ahiflower oil is on the shelves in the US and EU, NCI and its Canadian co-branding partners are preparing for Health Canada approvals, with plans to have their product available in Canada by mid-2016. Proof that knowledge and expertise supplemented with healthy collaboration can indeed lay the groundwork for success.

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