Pharmaceuticals 18th October 2023 5 min read

Trouble at Sea - rising costs in the fish oil market

The global omega-3 supplements market was valued at US $6.03 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to reach US $10.8 billion by 2028, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6% from 2020 to 2028.1 

Global demand for omega-3

The demand for fish oil and omega-3 alternatives is continuing to rise and is driven by several factors. The largest share of the omega-3 market is taken by supplements and functional foods.  Alongside an increasingly ageing population, rising consumer awareness of the benefits of omega-3 in alleviating symptoms, or in the prevention of common chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, means there is a greater demand for omega-3.

Awareness of the benefits and applications of omega-3 from medical professionals has also led to an increase in demand from the pharmaceutical sector, and the inclusion of DHA in infant formula further adds to the global omega-3 requirements.In addition to these factors, omega-3 fatty acids are also used in the aquaculture industry and included in animal nutrition and pet feed, which are also expected to boost the omega-3 market during the forecast period.

Depletion of global fish oil supplies

Global fish oil production reduced by 22% in the first five months of 2023 2, which has been attributed to a variety of factors. Peruvian fisheries traditionally supply around a third of the global fish oil supply 3, and from January to May 2023, there was a 50% reduction in Peru’s supply.2 Factors such as regulatory impositions, low catches, bad weather, high juvenile catches (yielding lower oil percentages), environmental temperature changes, and cancellation of the May and June 2023 fishing season in Peru and Chile, have all contributed to a reduction in the global supply of fish oil, putting pressure on existing fish oil stocks 3 and creating a demand and supply gap.

Rising costs continue

Demand increases and recent supply shortfalls have led to price inflation of fish oil. Prices have been driven up not only by the dwindling supply of fish oil but also the rising costs associated with fishing. Climate temperature changes have led to fish finding cooler temperatures in deeper waters, which increases the difficulty, and cost, of fishing.  

Plant-based - algal source omega-3

There have been significant advances in the quality and provision of omega-3 alternatives following the consumer demand for products that align with their personal choices, whilst also being sustainable with a minimal environmental impact. Algae is a potent source of omega-3 and is the primary source in the food chain.

​​Analysis shows that algal species vary in the content of omega-3 and additional factors such as growth conditions, developmental stages, and seasonal variations may also have an impact on omega-3 content .It has also been identified that algae has a particularly rich source of DHA, which has comparable bioavailability to salmon. Studies indicate that algal-sourced DHA effectively increases levels in the body. 5 

Fish oil efficacy

Numerous research papers show that fish consumption has beneficial effects on health, including reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and dementia.6 However, there is also research to show that supplementation with standard 18/12 fish oils may not always bring these positive effects.Discrepancies between research findings may be explainable by the fact that standard fish oils may be limited to the benefits of EPA and DHA alone. Fish contain not only these essential fatty acids, but also a multitude of other bioactive compounds that positively impact health. 

Omega options


IMCD caters for all your omega-3 needs, offering high-quality, effective, sustainable, and economic ingredients perfect for your portfolio needs. To find out more about our omega-3 options, please complete the below form.


1. Grand View Research (2021) 
2. The Marine Ingredients Organisation (2023) 
3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2023)
4. Harwood, J. L. (2019). Algae: Critical sources of very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Biomolecules, 9(11), 708. 
5. Arterburn, L. M., Oken, H. A., Hall, E. B., Hamersley, J., Kuratko, C. N., & Hoffman, J. P. (2008). Algal-oil capsules and cooked salmon: nutritionally equivalent sources of docosahexaenoic acid. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(7), 1204-1209.
6. Li, N., Wu, X., Zhuang, W., Xia, L., Chen, Y., Wu, C., ... & Zhou, Y. (2020). Fish consumption and multiple health outcomes: Umbrella review. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 99, 273-283.  
7. Abdelhamid, A. S., Brown, T. J., Brainard, J. S., Biswas, P., Thorpe, G. C., Moore, H. J., ... & Hooper, L. (2018). Omega‐3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (11).