Despite improvements in the food/drug/mass channel and the natural channel, the campaign did not fully return the market to growth, said Adam Ismail, executive director of GOED and a member of the coalition’s steering committee.
“Simply put, the campaign was underfunded,” said Ismail. “To make an impression on consumers is extremely difficult in today’s media-saturated marketplace and with a budget of less than $5 million, it was hard to move the needle.
“The national campaign served as a solid proof of concept that an industry-led investment in building the category can be successful,” he added, “but one of the key takeaway’s was that the level of industry participation and scope of financial investment were factors that limited success. Having said that, we are happy with what was achieved and believe we did well with the budget we had.”
From decline to growth
The omega-3 sector has experienced something of a decline in recent years, with some observers suggesting this is due to negative headlines linked to a couple of negative studies. However, speaking with us at SupplySide West, Ismail said: “It wasn’t the increase in negative headlines, it wasn’t one particular study that was driving this decline, it was a lack of positive messaging reaching the consumer.”
To give consumers that positive prompt, the omega-3 industry coalition devised a campaign that included television, print and digital advertising, an education consumer website (AlwaysOmega3s.com), targeted public relations, billboard ads and retail store activation.
A four-week test campaign ran in Charlotte from mid-September to mid-October 2014, which results in increased sales of 5.8%, significantly above the 3% campaign goal, and also showed a positive increase for the first time in many months.
Taking the positives from the Charlotte campaign, the Always Omega-3s campaign was rolled out nationally. The campaign actually yielded an increase of more than 5%, climbing from -7.68% to -2.55% in the food/drug/mass channel (see figure 1 below).
The campaign also had a positive effect in the natural channel with a conservative estimate of a 0.7% increase. In this channel, retail activation made a difference and according to the coalition’s Market Research Committee, retail brands that used in-store signage fared best.
Against a backdrop of more negative press
The improvements in sales recorded for the national campaign were realized despite the fact that a negative New York Times article was published only a few weeks into the campaign and quickly spread to other national media outlets.
In addition, several key products were discontinued during the campaign before replacements were available, impacting approximately 5% of units sold.
The coalition also completed a consumer survey, the results of which showed a conservative estimate of a 1-2% increase in omega-3 usage.
The coalition also estimated where the market would have gone in a normal cycle without the effect of the campaign, using a regression model starting in December 2014. Comparing actual sales to the forecast indicates a possible sales increase of 7% as a result of the campaign.
Science advisory council driving future efforts
Following the national advertising campaign, the coalition continues to work on PR initiatives that reinforce the science-supported benefits of omega-3s. The coalition has assembled a science advisory council to complement efforts to educate consumers about the benefits, efficacy and safety of the omega-3s.
The Council has authored an op-ed piece that has been submitted to a top tier publication and is preparing a white paper on the benefits of omega-3s and heart health.
Members of the Omega-3 Science Advisory Council include:
Cheryl Forberg, RD, a James Beard award-winning chef, New York Times bestselling author, and the nutritionist for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”
William Harris, PhD, an internationally-known expert on omega-3 fatty acids and how they benefit patients with heart disease.
Daniel Soffer, MD, an internist and lipidologist with Penn Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania; he lectures regularly on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism and clinical management of lipid disorders and atherosclerosis.
Marie Spano, MS, RD, a food and nutrition journalist, spokesperson and frequent guest on national and regional TV stations.
In addition, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, PhD, Dean of the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a board certified cardiologist and epidemiologist, will be serving as scientific consultant to the Omega-3 Coalition and GOED.