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Education Pertaining to Omega-3 Fish Oils: A Retailer's Responsibility

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Omega-3 fatty acids provide health benefits across all subgroups of the population over their lifespan and deficiency has been linked to a wide range of chronic health conditions, which is why most experts recommend eating at least two servings, or 8 ounces, of seafood weekly to meet the body’s omega-3 requirements. However, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and What We Eat in America Survey, 80 to 90 percent of US consumers don’t get the required amount of omega-3s from their diet.

Why aren’t we eating enough seafood to meet our omega-3 needs?

Consumers’ declining interest in seafood may be attributable to concerns over mercury contamination in certain types of seafood, confusion over the health impact of consuming genetically modified salmon, a general lack of awareness about which types of fish are healthy, concerns about the impact of overfishing on ocean sustainability, and a failure on the part of industry to educate consumers about the benefits of eating fish.

Fish oil supplements provide all of the benefits without any of the risks.

Paradoxically, the decreased interest in seafood created opportunities for manufacturers to make the case for supplementation with fish oil. The option to supplement with fish oil instead of eating seafood resonated with consumers and contributed to a steady increase in sales of omega-3 supplements until 2012. However, if the slump in the omega-3 industry over the past few years is anything to go by, consumers’ romance with fish oil supplements appears to be heading south.

Despite widespread awareness of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, fewer than 10% of the population takes an omega-3 supplement, 8 in 10 Americans have inadequate omega-3 status, and over 95% of the population has omega-3 concentrations that are below levels required for optimal heart health.

Alaska pollock fillets

Why are Americans losing interest in omega-3 supplements?

According to GOED consumer research, one reason for the low market saturation could be 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.” Consumers’ own lack of measurable positive experiences with fish oil supplements couple with the constant stream of data questioning the usefulness and effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids to support heart health, further adds to the overall lack of interest in omega-3 supplements.

Not all omega-3 supplements are created equal.

Omega-3 supplements, like whole-food multivitamins, are not all created equal and comparing across brands and choosing the one best suited to a customer’s needs is complicated by the lack of clarity with regard to the attributes of “quality” fish oil supplements.

When customers are faced with the prospect of having to choose from a dizzying array of omega-3 products that differ in terms of source, potency, concentration, structure, bioavailability, metabolism, and sustainability, they do the only logical thing they can do under the circumstances — they turn to you, the retailer, for guidance.

So, what does all this mean for you?

As a natural products retailer, you are in a powerful position to encourage and empower consumers to take charge of their health by educating them about the importance of consuming the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids through their diet and/or supplementation.

Be the expert your customers need you to be. Tell them about the differences between ethyl-esters and triglycerides, explaining why the latter form is more bioavailable. Bring up matters of sustainability, including the unethical overfishing practices running rampant in the southern hemisphere. Help them understand why a product like Double Strength Omega-3 Fish Oil — or any other product you trust — is worth their consideration.

By helping your customers make informed purchasing decisions, you will not only be positively impacting their health, you will also be providing a value-added, personalized shopping experience and customers will reward you for your efforts with their loyalty.

Natural products retailer giving advice
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