By Anupreeta Das
NEW YORK, April 27 (Reuters) - A new joint venture between Hormel Foods Corp. (HRL.N) and a food technology company will market Omega-3 fatty acids as additives for an array of foods and beverages from pasta to smoothies. The use of Omega-3s — found in fish and known to reduce the risk of heart disease — has been limited, because these oils do not smell good and turn rancid easily, said Hank Cardello, chief executive of Source Food Technology Inc., a privately held company that supplies the proprietary oil purification technology.
“Our technology allows us to get rid of the odor notes and instability molecules that affect fish oils,” Cardello said in an interview with Reuters.
Source Food, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, uses a purification process that combines high temperatures and a vacuum to create deodorized oils that will not break down when used in foods.
The joint venture, called Hormel Health Technology Llc, is “really a marriage of our technology and Hormel’s capabilities and know-how in dealing with foods,” he said.
The two companies hope to cash in on current health and wellness trends. Last year, U.S. sales of fortified and “functional” foods and beverages touched $20 billion, according to Packaged Facts research.
The venture is a “small one” for Hormel, maker of Spam luncheon meat and Dinty Moore stews, under its specialty products division, said Julie Craven, a company spokeswoman. “It looks like a very good fit for our specialty foods division, and certainly the whole area of nutraceuticals and functional foods is one we’re watching,” said Craven. “But it’s still very, very early.”
Hormel will sell the deodorized Omega-3 fatty acids in powder, oil and emulsion forms, but it will take up to a year to get to market.
The transaction also involves Hormel’s purchase of some Source Food assets and use of its patents, said Cardello. Neither party disclosed the size of or anticipated returns from the venture.
Source Food develops and markets various oils for the food industry that are stripped of cholesterol, odors and other impurities to improve taste and enhance nutritional value. The company is currently marketing a trans-fat-free cooking oil called Appetize to New York restaurants.
Hormel sells products from Diamond Crystal-brand drink mixes to Great Beginnings-brand cooking fats to the food industry through its specialty foods division.
“Our partnership with Source Food further strengthens the portfolio within our specialty ingredients business segment,” said Paul Jacobson, director of Hormel’s Specialty Products, in a statement.
“Omega-3s are on-trend with today’s health-conscious consumer,” he said.
Scientific research suggests that regular intake of Omega-3s can reduce the risk of heart disease. The FDA allows companies to make a heart-health claim on Omega-3s, and the American Heart Association recommends that at-risk people include these oils in their daily diet.
“The dream of deodorizing fish oil and adding it to a lot of food — companies have had that for a while,” said David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health advocacy group.
Although Omega-3s are currently added to certain yogurts, milks and cereal bars, “the fishy taste has been a barrier to adding it to more products,” Schardt said.
A wider use of Omega-3s is a good thing for people who don’t like fish, he said, but if an Omega-3-enhanced product has no other nutritional value, “it wouldn’t be much of a trade-off.”
((Editing by Jane Baird; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com; +1 646 223 6172)) Keywords: HORMEL JOINTVENTURE/
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