The role of omega-3 in contributing to well-being, including brain and eye health, is widely known. Supplements derived from fish and krill oils are widely available, but they have drawbacks, such as being strongly flavoured; they are also not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
Dutch company Progress Biotech combats this by extracting the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from algae, producing a tasteless, colourless and vegan alternative to fish oil supplements.
DHA makes up the highest proportion of omega-3 in the brain and retina. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recognises the role of DHA in contributing to normal brain function and vision, and recommends an intake of 250mg per day.
With expertise in areas including biochemistry, medicine and biotechnology, Progress Biotech produces algal oil from the species Schizochytrium, a widely recognised source of DHA, via mechanical extraction and without using any solvents. The oil is then refined and concentrated according to EU standards. This method results in an extremely pure oil, rich in DHA, which is available in a range of concentrates, of 40-70% DHA. The oil is also kosher, halal and vegan.
The ability to offer a vegan source of DHA is of paramount importance to Progress Biotech's clients, as Alexandre Elo, vice-president of nutritionals Europe at distributor Aceto, makes clear. "After ten years of selling all kinds of health ingredients, we got into omega-3," he explains. "We had a whole range of fish oils and different suppliers, and what we were missing - and the trends showed that we were right - was entering into what we call 'vegan omega-3'."
An alternative to fish oil was also important to 4U Pharma. "Our products are intended for infants and small children," Doris Sabanova says. "For our company, the crucial thing is for the source of DHA to have almost zero contaminants; for example, fish oils are affected by contaminants from the oceans - heavy metals like mercury - so we do not use them."
Elo draws attention to the DHA algal oil's lack of taste, a marked contrast to the strong flavour of fish oil supplements. "In the fish oil industry, in the omega-3 business, this is the main problem," Elo states. "A product that is tasteless and odourless - that was a really big story for us."
Sabanova is in agreement, pointing out that children will not take a bad-tasting or smelling supplement. "Tasteless and odourless algal oil is very hard to find on the market," she affirms. "That is why Progress Biotech's algal oil is perfect for us."
In addition to its high-quality product, Progress Biotech's logistical provision and team of experts are praised by clients. The company offers transportation by a variety of means - according to client needs - keeps stock available in a certified warehouse and can arrange inspection with a surveyor.
For Aceto, this strong logistical capability is essential. "In terms of logistics, it is excellent," Elo says. "They are dedicated to this product and they supply everything to our customers straight from the Netherlands, from their warehouse."
"We get all the support that we need from Progress Biotech," Sabanova adds. "The expertise and dedication of their team is always at our disposal, and we can always rely on their help in answering all the questions from our customers and doctors."