Krill oil in China: Popularity growing among middle-aged consumers for CVD, eye and immune benefits

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Krill oil supplements are gaining popularity among Chinese consumers who are 40 and above. ©Getty Images
Krill oil supplements are gaining popularity among Chinese consumers who are 40 and above. ©Getty Images

Related tags Krill oil Eye health Heart health

Krill oil dietary supplements are proving increasingly popular among middle-aged consumers in China, according to the biggest brand in terms of sales on Tmall during the recent Double 11 shopping festival.

Function (Qingdao) Marine Technology is selling krill oil supplements under the brands VIK and NY-O3​ via its JD and Tmall flagship stores.

The products are also present in over 300 offline stores across supermarket chain Ole, TCM specialty store Tong Ren Tang, and the duty-free store at Hainan airport.

The company noticed that there has been a growing awareness on the benefits of krill oil, with individuals over 40 years old making the bulk of its consumers these days.

“In the first two years when I attended the China International Import Expo (CIIE), many people do not know krill oil.

“Today, VIK, a brand which we introduced to China in 2018, has become the number one krill oil brand on Tmall in the recent Double 11 shopping festival,”​ Zhang Hong Li, GM at the company told NutraIngredients-Asia.

There are currently five product SKUs under the VIK brand, of which, three are krill oil capsule products and are made in the US, Australia, and New Zealand.

Krill oil is becoming popular with middle aged consumers because it addresses their key concerns across cardiovascular, eye, liver, and immune health, Zhang said. He added that many were repeat customers.  

Although China’s krill oil market is relatively small, it is not considered a new category in the country.

In fact, there are a number of domestic companies which supply krill oil.

Working with Norwegian krill oil supplier Aker BioMarine, Zhang stressed the importance of providing high quality, 100 per cent krill oil products to the consumers.

“Previously, there were some local companies which mixed krill oil with other oils in their products. Consumers who happened to buy these low-quality products did not experience improvements to their health and this has tainted their impression of krill oil.

“Our products are 100 per cent krill oil,” ​he stressed.

During last month's CIIE, both Function and Aker BioMarine said they would strengthen their partnership.

Aker BioMarine currently also works with JE – a direct-selling company selling health supplements and skincare products – in promoting krill oil in China.  

China is a huge omega-3 market. We do expect a much bigger growth going forward by converting consumers taking fish oil omega-3 into krill oil omega-3 by persuading them the benefits of phospholipid omega-3,” ​Thong Luu, senior VP of Human Health and Nutrition for Asia at Aker BioMarine told us.

Offline focus

As krill oil is not listed in China’s Health Food Raw Material Directory, krill oil products are not able to make health claims, unless they apply for the ‘blue-hat’ certification.

In this case, Function, together with Aker BioMarine, is already in the midst of applying the ‘blue-hat’ certification.

‘Blue-hat’ certified products can also be sold in offline pharmacies, which is a crucial retail channel in China. However, applying for the certification is a time-consuming process which requires years to complete.

“With the ‘blue hat’ certification, you can make health claims for your products, that is critical,”​ Thong said, adding that pharmacies were crucial as consumers could receive pharmacists’ recommendation over there.

New product plans

Zhang said that the company was exploring new dosage formats to create krill oil products for people of different age groups.

For example, he noticed that nutrition products in the snack formats have been very popular lately and this could be a way to appeal to the youngsters.

On the other hand, Thong said that there could be a potential further down the road in creating krill oil products that also contain other ingredients such as curcumin and cannabidiol (CBD).

Aker BioMarine has also received halal certification for krill oil supplied to its customers from Southeast Asia.

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