Krill Oil Suppliers; what to ask them about quality and price

When engaging with krill oil suppliers, you may want to consider the following check list for your due diligence. Krill oil is significantly different from fish oil, and when you’re used to issuing fish oil purchase orders, you want to keep in mind:

  • Krill oil is special compared with fish oil, because bulk krill oil contains at least 40% phospholipids. Fish oil has no phospholipids. Phospholipids will give krill oil the benefits for which it is so known. The other 60% in the krill oil is either in triglyceride or free fatty acid form. The triglycerides in krill oil are nothing special, and without the phospholipids, krill oil would be nothing more than an inferior fish oil. So phospholipid content is critical when you determine quality, and should not be less than 40%.
  • Krill oil cannot contain more than 45% phospholipids, because above such level krill oil is no longer liquid, unless the manufacturer uses thinners like sorbitol.
  • There is a krill oil on the market that contains no phospholipids at all (5 mg vs 400 mg in real krill oil. It is being marketed to consumers as real krill oil, but is will have none of the benefits krill oil is known for. Be aware: it’s a consumer krill oil scam.
  • Krill oil is extracted from Antarctic krill Euphausia superba. This shrimp-like species has only during the fall season a high omega-3 level, and approximately half of those omega-3 fatty acids are bonded to the phospholipid molecule. The other half is mainly in triglyceride form.
  • All serious krill oil suppliers offer pure Antarctic krill oil. This product qualification means that it is 100% from Euphausia superba. Some suppliers, such as Azantis Inc, also offer the customer the option of premium blends, in which the low quality krill triglycerides have been replaced with high quality fish triglycerides. Some resellers like this blend option, because it gives them a marketing edge.
  • Do your own phospholipid testing, unless the supplier can show you a third party CofA. There are few labs than have the P-NMR equipment to reliably test for phospholipids. Reliable and respectable phospholipid P-NMR labs are Spectral Service GmbH in Cologne, Germany, and Avanti Polar Lipids in Alabama, USA.
  • Phospholipids are self-organizing molecules, and will separate. Have a clear SOP for sample taking, or you will risk testing only the triglyceride portion of the oil.
  • Test for lyso-phosphatidylcholine (LPC). These are phospholipids which lost one fatty acid. LPC higher than 10% of the phospholipid base strongly indicates A) the use of degraded krill meal, in which the phospholipids fell apart, or B) an extraction process too harsh on the phospholipid, with a similar or worse degrading. High LPC levels typically go hand in hand with high free fatty acid levels.
  • As a rule of thumb: krill oil with 40% phospholipids contains no more than 9% bonded EPA, and no more than 5% bonded DHA. The rest of the EPA/DHA is in triglyceride form; the same form as in fish oil.
  • Some resellers, such as Schiff’s MegaRed, and NKO krill oil, claim unrealistically high omega-3 levels. These levels cannot be achieved by natural means, and if you intend to compete with them on label claims, that you will have an unsurmountable task ahead.
  • Test for astaxanthin. Antarctic krill harvested in the fall, can NATURALLY contain as much as 600 ppm (parts per million) of esterified astaxanthin. Make sure you put “esterified” on you label, because plain “astaxanthin” can trigger FDA considering it a drug. Astaxanthin works as a natural preservative. Some bulk krill oil suppliers have as little as 100 ppm esterified astaxanthin in the krill oil supplement.
  • Astaxanthin, omega-3 and phospholipids vary with the season. Krill fatten up during the Antarctic summer, and will have the highest phospholipid and omega-3 levels just before spawning. To buy krill oil from a krill oil supplier with a boat in the Antarctic waters is for this reason alone not necessarily a good idea. The boat will have to harvest krill during the whole spring, summer and fall. Only krill from a 4 week window in the fall will have the highest quality. Krill oil suppliers, who rely on independent fishermen, can buy high quality krill biomass from that late fall window.
  • Astaxanthin will peak in the summer, because it protects the Antarctic krill against 24 hour sun exposure.
  • Smell. Degraded krill oil will smell and taste terribly. Make sure that the smell doesn’t get worse over time. Poorly extracted krill oil will continue to degrade in the capsule, causing an increasingly fishy odor.
  • Buy krill oil capsules instead of krill bulk oil. Bulk krill oil capsules are very hard to make.  Ask your krill oil supplier for both the capsule price and the bulk krill oil price, and factor the leaker risk into your COGS calculation.
  • All krill oil is derived from krill sustainably harvested under the supervision of the international treaty organization CCAMLR (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources).
  • Cheap krill oil does not exist. If you are price sensitive, consider fish oil instead. There’s no such thing as a bulk krill oil sale.
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