Why is IKEA interested in omega-3s from algae?

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Challenges of using traditional feed ingredients moves interest towards alternative feed. Retailers are now also requesting new and alternative protein rich ingredients in feed. 

“So why is IKEA here?,” Christoph Mathiesen, sustainability developer, Food Category, IKEA asks out to the crowd when presenting himself in a closed panel debate about algae as a feed ingredient, at North Atlantic Seafood Forum( NASF).

IKEA is a big buyer of salmon both in retail and in their restaurants world wide, and according to Christoph Mathiesen IKEA has always had a focus on ingredients in their products.

But as costumers become more educated and aware of specific ingredients and nutrition in their food, the company has experienced a growing demand on visibility in products and seeing that the seafood industry is a front mover on this matter, it is natural to look this way first.

“Salmon is seen as a sustainable product. We wanted to have a more balanced meal, that is also why we only serve AC certified salmon. It is crucial in our sustainability plan looking at how we can become more clear about the ingredients and their origin in our products,” he says.

AlgaPrime panel debate about alternative fish feed. From left: Jill Kauffmann Johnson, head of Global Market Development, AlgaPrime DHA, Corbion; Dr.Katerina Kousoulaki, Senior Researcher, Nofima; Vegard Denstadil, Technical Director, Biomar;Jørgen Skeide, Project Leader, Lerøy; Christoph Mathiesen, Sustainability Developer, Food Category, IKEA; North Atlantic Seafood Forum. Photo: Katrina Poulsen

IKEAs sustainability plan does not inform in detail how big a percentage algae is in their products, but Mathiesen hopes to improve this in the coming plan. When asking why salmon is important in this matter, Mathiesen points out that the product is a luxury product in a different price league than other protein sources.

“When it comes to salmon there is an interest in investing in alternative ingredients as the product is more costly and the payback is therefore more grant. We therefore also see the seafood industry as first movers.”

AlgaPrime panel debate about alternative fish feed. From left: Jill Kauffmann Johnson, head of Global Market Development, AlgaPrime DHA, Corbion; Dr.Katerina Kousoulaki, Senior Researcher, Nofima; Vegard Denstadil, Technical Director, Biomar;Jørgen Skeide, Project Leader, Lerøy; Christoph Mathiesen, Sustainability Developer, Food Category, IKEA;Helena Delgado Nordmann, responsible Souring Manager, Tesco. North Atlantic Seafood Forum 2020 Photo: Katrina Poulsen

Fish grows half a kilo more with algae
According to algae oil producer Alga Prime, who is the host of the panel debate, algae as a ingredient creates more growth in the salmon and is therefore more nutritious for the human eating the fish.

Read also: Microalgae producer Corbion partners with Salmon Group

A recently presented study by Norwegian institute for research within seafood, fishery and food research, Nofima backs up this claim. The Nofima study states algae as an alternative to fish oil made salmon fish grow half a kilo more and improved the performance of the salmon in challenging conditions.

“But if this is the case, why is everybody not using algae in their feed?” moderator Jill Kauffmann Johnson, head of Global Market Development, AlgaPrime DHA, Corbion asks the rest of the panel.

“It is the price that keeps people away,” representatives from both Danish feed supplyer Biomar, UK leading supermarket Tesco, Norwegain salmon farmer Lerøy and IKEA argue united.

Feed is less measurable
Jørgen Skeide, Project leader in Lerøy since September 2019 points out, that even though Lerøy has for the last three years added algae oil in their fish feed it is still difficult to keep a genuine interest on the subject.

“It is much easier for investors to understand the influence a new factory has on the market, but feed is less measurable,” he says, and adds:

“The whole industry has a challenge of telling the positive stories of what we are doing, when it comes to fish feed.”

But IKEA does not only believe it is about the price of algae oil.

“It might be more costly, but it might also be more efficient.”

Tesco representative Helena Delgado Nordmann, Responsible Souring Manager agrees that it is not only the cost but also availability.

“If we want something to be mainstream, we have to make sure of the whole supply chain, so we don’t leave anything behind. We want to make sure, that every step is in order,” she says underlining the fact that every link in the chain is on board and interested in alternative fish feed ingredients.

As prices on fish oil are increasing AlgaPrime believes the interest for algae oil will grow. As to how big a percentage their ingredient is in products AlgaPrime would not provide specific details.

AlgaPrime would not provide a forecast for the growth for AlgaPrime in the algae oil market, when SalmonBusiness requested it.