According to Grand View Research, the global market for Omega-3 ingredients was estimated at 24.87 tonnes in 2013, and it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.7% from 2014 to 2020. As the largest market for Omega-3 ingredients in 2013, Europe accounted for more than 60% of the world’s consumption. It is expected to maintain its position until 2020. Regarding value, the global Omega-3 market is supposed to reach a value of US$ 7.32 billion in 2020 (Source CBI, The Netherlands Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries).

Naturkost Übelhör (NKU), international trader of organic food ingredients, introduced organic chia at a time when the little black and white seeds were known only in a lemonade recipe in its country of origin, Mexico, and in the US as the famous grow-it-yourself “chia pet”.

In Mexico agronomist Guillermo Orozco de Rosas of the Chia Blanca Cooperative in Acatic, Jalisco started reintroducing interest in chia seeds as a commercial crop 15 years before Salba in Canada and the US, Benexia in Chile and Argentina and Chia Co. in Australia got involved in the business of chia seeds.

Founded in 1987 in the Allgäu region of Germany, Naturkost Übelhör opened in 2006 a subsidiary in Mexico. Since then, the company has been investing in both its German and Mexican businesses. In 2011, Naturkost Übelhör launched its retail brand Sachia®, a range of chia products made at first available to end consumers via an online shop.

Nicole Buzengeiger, marketing & product manager ingredients/superfoods says that Sachia® is performing well at the moment.  “We recently received a German award for our brand: “Veganes Reformprodukt des Jahres 2016” (Vegan Reformhaus product of the year 2016). It is granted by Neuform, the Reformhaus sector’s quality seal,” she says.

“Neuform is distributing our Sachia products in the Reformhaus distribution network. Reformhauses are select health food stores found mainly in Germany and Austria,” she says. “Our chia seeds are retailed under various customer label brands in many European and international countries and parts of Asia.

Buzengeiger explains: “In Germany and Mexico we built up two cleaning lines equipped with UV sterilization, colour sorter, de-stoner and metal detector as well as a grader and gravity separator. At Naturkost de Mexico we only work with chia seeds. In our German facility, the production line handles both chia and gluten-free seeds.

“We have an additional CO2 pressurization facility in Hamburg and all the products we received are processed there. To handle the increased volume we also employed new staff: at Naturkost de Mexico we currently have 31 employees and in Germany 47 employees.”

“This year we are planning on introducing new Sachia® products like chia oil and chia flour.” In 2014, chia seed oil entered the European market as a novel ingredient, seen as meeting consumer needs in Health and Wellness.

The oil is valued for its high Omega-3 content and its neutral flavour, giving it considerable potential in the market for food and health supplements, says the CBI in its 2014 research. Total chia product retail value globally is expected to reach $US1 billion by 2020.

In 2016, Naturkost Übelhör will exhibit at BIOFACH Germany, Expo West in Anaheim (US), H&I in Tokyo (Japan), Natural & Organic Products Europe in London (UK), and Hi&Ni in Frankfurt, Germany.