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Retailers 'key' in push to change feed sustainability strategies

Algae oil producer sees increasing role for retailers who hold sway over consumers.

Mainstream retailers have a vital role to play in convincing consumers to understand the value of paying more for farmed fish reared on innovative new feed products.

That's the view of Karim Kurmaly, CEO of Veramaris, the joint venture established by Royal DSM and Evonik with the aim of meeting roughly 15 percent of the total current demand for the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from the global farmed salmon industry.

The construction of Veramaris's $200 million (€170.7 million) plant in Nebraska to make omega-3 oil from marine algae is progressing on-time and according to plan, with commercial quantities of algal oil set to be ready for delivery in mid-2019.

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Veramaris uses locally sourced sugar produced from corn in its fermentation process. The algae strain, Schizochytrium, which is applied, has the advantage of EPA and DHA and the resulting oil has a concentration exceeding 50 percent.

Traditionally the adoption of innovative aquaculture feed has involved a two-way process between stakeholders in the value chain, slowing down and even hampering innovation, Kurmaly told IntraFish.

As part of an effort to promote a new industry approach Veramaris is investing much time and effort sitting down with consumers, processors, retailers and farmers to convince them of the need for change in feed ingredient production.

"If you break that down and bring them all to the table then they understand that this is for the good of the entire value chain," he said.

But change frequently comes at a price. For Kurmaly, farmers run into a wall when they take their product reared on higher cost, sustainable feed to retailers whose main goal has always been to beat suppliers down on price.

"The retailers occupy the interface between consumers and the value chain and I think it will be the retailers who take that ownership," he said.

While part of that will come from retailers educating consumers, change is already being propelled by a shift in mindset of company boards led by CEO's grasping the importance of sustainability.

But this needs to become widespread among mainstream retailers in Kurmaly's view.

Retailer management is increasingly taking note of the views of the 25-37-years old age group who want to know where products are sourced and are willing to pay that little bit extra, he said.

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