For instance, it is currently developing a liquid omega-3 formula for the kids, which will be an addition to its current offerings catered to eye health and prenatal health in China.
Romega is owned and operated by Arctic Biosciences, a biotechnology company that specialises in developing products from herring roe sourced from herring fish in the North Atlantic and the coast of Norway.
The Euronext stock exchange listed company also sells omega-3 extracted from herring roes as an ingredient to other brand owners. Examples include Pristin – a brand owned by Malaysia’s Holista Colltech.
Romega has been sold via cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) as an omega-3 product targeting eye health and prenatal health in China since 2019. The product is also available elsewhere in the US, Turkey, South America, and Europe, but China is the biggest market.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Hogne Hallaråker, founder and CSO, said that the product has been well-received in China for its natural and clean status.
“China is our biggest market and it looks like Asian countries like our product offering with the caviar extract a natural product – fish from the cold arctic sea of Norway,” said Hallaråker.
The Romega product sold in China comes in soft gel capsules containing 500mg of omega-3.
“The product is a 500mg small soft-gel capsule suitable for the Asian market. We have 60 people now working on Romega in China, it’s quite a big operation.”
Asked the upcoming strategies to further grow the brand in China, he said that the firm was working to develop the brand as an omega-3 for different life stages.
“We have a very good partner in China. It's called the Kotler Marketing Group and they have a vision where the product is a lifelong supplement. One actually starts on the supplement before one is born, because the mother will take it and then it goes to the foetus.
“We are also developing a liquid formula for young children. When they are able to take capsules, then they can take it all throughout their childhood, and also beneficial when they are a student, throughout their middle age and then for healthy ageing.
“The lifelong use of the product, I think, is the key in China. We will expand our business that way and conduct trials and see the benefits that consumers can get from our omega product,” he explained.
The products for different health benefits contain herring cavier omega-3 as the key active ingredient, while other ingredients specifically beneficial for a particularly health need will also be added.
The company is also eyeing the wider Asia-Pacific markets, including Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.
“We are working to expand in China and in South East Asia. So hopefully we'll also have the product in Singapore, Thailand, maybe also Indonesia. We had some very good interest at the Vitafoods trade show in Bangkok…We think brain and eye health is a good way to start but different geographies want different things as well.”
Difference with krill oil
Similar to krill oil, omega-3 from herring cavier comes in the form of phospholipids instead of triglycerides – the form which fish oil omega-3 is available in.
Both krill oil and herring cavier omega-3 are also rich in choline, however, herring cavier is richer in DHA phospholipid, while krill oil is a high EPA phospholipid.
As a company based in Norway, the biggest advantage is that herring cavier can be harvested closer to home, while krill needs to be harvested from the Antarctic.
“Herring fish eggs contains the ingredients to generate new life, so it’s very nutrient dense.
“The main lipids that we try to extract are the membrane lipid, which are typically phospholipid bounds. They are different from other fats and oils because you can mix it with water, it’s an emulsifier, so the bioavailability is much higher.
“Also, almost every cell in the body has a lipid bilayer and this bilayer, which controls what goes in and out of the cell, composes of phospholipids.
“And when you eat fish eggs or the lipids of fish eggs, this will help your lipid bilayer to function properly and fortify it with polyunsaturated fats that are bound to phospholipids. There are also other components that are interesting, such as choline for brain health and vitamin D, which are important for many physiological processes,” Hallaråker explained.
The company, which operates both nutraceutical and pharmaceutical businesses, is currently conducting a number of clinical studies.
One of the upcoming trials in Asia-Pacific is to study the use of herring cavier lipids on mild cognitive impairment, a trial that will take place in India.
Another trial will study the use of herring cavier lipids and its effects on psoriasis. The goal is to develop a pharmaceutical product to treat mild to moderate psoriasis, which is planned to be ready in 2026.
“We did a number of other animal studies to try and figure out the health benefits and discovered that a certain version of this product treated a condition called psoriasis,” Hallaråker said.
Protein from herring
Herring cavier are made up of 20 per cent fats and 80 per cent protein, which is why the company is also extracting protein from it, which he said could be used to make into products to support muscle and bone health.
Unlike its omega-3 business, the company will be operating the protein portfolio as a B2B business at this moment.