The heart and brain health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are well known, but getting enough omega-3 can be a challenge. As the health benefits of yogurt become more popular, the food industry is coming up with more exotic flavors. The idea may turn your stomach, but scientists are experimenting with fish oil yogurt that delivers the entire recommended daily intake of omega-3 in a single serving.
Innovative flavor science
The food industry sees a lucrative market presented by recent innovations in flavor science and the popularity of omega-3 fatty acids among nutrition-conscious consumers. The pursuit of that market has led to an incongruous, let alone unappetizing idea: fish oil yogurt. Food scientists at Virginia Tech University have determined that savory chili and lime flavored yogurt fortified with fish oil is a viable commercial product that provides more than the suggested daily intake of omega-3 recommended by the American Heart Association.
Tasters tolerate fish oil in yogurt
The Virgina Tech fish oil yogurt study is detailed in the April issue of the Journal of Dairy Science. A preliminary trial found that both novice and trained tasters could not detect a fish flavor in a chili-lime yogurt infused with 1 percent fresh fish oil. A second trial recruited 100 untrained yet nutrition-conscious consumers to rate chili-lime yogurt enriched with either butter oil or fish oil.
After tasting the yogurt, 50 percent of the group rated yogurts fortified with either oil on the positive end of the scale somewhere between “liked extremely,” to “neither liked or disliked.” Thirty-nine percent of those who evaluated the product favorably said they would be highly likely or likely to eat the chili lime fish oil yogurt on a regular basis.
Savory vs. sweet
The researchers claim that the other 50 percent of the group that didn’t care for the product likely felt that way because of unfamiliarity with yogurt that has a savory, rather than sweet flavor. Given the potential market, development of a sweet flavored yogurt that delivers more than the daily recommended intake of omega-3 probably isn’t that far off.
The omega-3 market
The global market for omega-3 food, beverages and supplements was recently valued at almost $8 billion by the research firm Packaged Facts. The market grew 17 percent from 2009 and that rate of growth is expected to continue.
The U.S. leads the omega-3 market with annual sales of $4 billion in foods and drinks, and $1.3 billion for dietary supplements. Much of the food and beverage figure is accounted for by omega-3 fortified infant foods and formulas. This market is expected to grow by another 14 percent annually by 2014, and fish oil yogurt could be a major driver of that growth.