Benoit: Thank you, Mike. I'm glad to answer some questions for you.
Mike: You have a line of cod liver products and supplements for adults and children. Can you give us a brief description of your product line and what's unique about your products?
Benoit: Specific to the cod liver products, let me start with what our source is. Nordic Naturals is the manufacturer of the highest quality cod liver product on the market. What is really unique about the product is that we are the source, essentially. We have contracts with fishermen, we run the extraction on the cod liver oil, and we provide and produce the purest and the freshest available.
People are concerned with the liver of fish holding toxins, but the distillation technique and the raw materials [we use] ensure that people don't have to worry about these problems. Another concern people have is that cod liver typically has a high level of vitamin A and D. However, the vitamin D being there is half the reason it is as effective as it is, in regards to brain health and [other areas].
Mike: Heavy metals are not a concern with the distillation process you use?
Benoit: No. We use a molecular distillation process for our cod liver oil, but we keep the integrity of the oil and the naturally occurring levels of EPA -- which is the eicosapentaenoic acid that helps with inflammation -- and the DHA -- which is the docosahexaenoic acid that helps nervous system, brain health and synaptic firing. At their natural levels, they will be the most effective. However, molecular distillation does do something to the levels of vitamins A and D.
Basically, we lose about 50 percent of the vitamin D in the distillation process and about 5 percent of the vitamin A. That doesn't sound like much, but what you are assuring is the amount of vitamin A and D in our cod liver oil only occurs in the fish. We don't augment it with synthetic vitamins A or D. What you are getting in one teaspoon of our cod liver oil is the highest level you would see in any cod liver oil of DHA and EPA. It is 700 milligrams of DHA. It is 450 milligrams of EPA, and the vitamin D ranges anywhere from around 10 to 40 IU, which doesn't necessarily come up to your 100 percent level of intake, but it does affect brain health and mood. The vitamin A can range anywhere from about 990 IU to 1,950 IU. This comes close to 40 percent of a recommended daily allowance.
Mike: A couple of things are interesting with your product. You have unique single-dose packaging.
Benoit: For the cod liver, yes. It is available in orange flavor, which is the first product we introduced that way. They come 30 to a box, so people can take a single one for the road and not have to worry about refrigeration. They don't have to worry about how long it has been opened and things like that. For an individual like myself, I travel 75 percent of the time. If you're doing that and taking a glass bottle on the plane with you or moving from hotel to hotel, it will go rancid if it is not refrigerated. One of the really unique things about our product is that it is nowhere near rancid. We surpass international standards for purity and freshness. That is why we won the contest for the best-tasting cod liver oil on the market for the past four years.
Mike: This leads me to my main question. People think that cod liver oil is going to taste terrible. I tasted this before. This is not at all objectionable and, in fact, with the flavorings you have in it, it is quite delicious.
Benoit: Well, we're starting with the freshest oil on the market because we have the contracts with the fishermen. We are extracting the liver from the fish within four to six hours of it coming in to dock. We can take that liver and put it in a centrifuge within hours of it being present at the dock in Norway. All of our cod is 100 percent arctic cod. Arctic cod stays in a very small area of the world. It is not sitting in a boat or storage area for days before it is extracted. After we take the liver out, the meat is sent away for meat processing. 100 percent of this fish is used. It is not an environmental waste.
Mike: I like this peach flavor. It almost tastes like sherbet.
Benoit: Some kids have actually been known to ask for it instead of their dessert, so you're not too far from the truth there. The other thing we do that is really unique is take that same cod liver oil and put it in a children's supplement called children's DHA. It is a chewable supplement and tastes like bubble gum to kids. Each capsule is the size of a pea. They actually ask for it and enjoy taking it.
Mike: This is so important for the health of children, especially when we're talking about nutrients for the nervous system. There are almost epidemic numbers of children today being diagnosed with ADHD, behavior disorders and aggressive behavior. I think a lot of this comes down to nervous system health and balance. Children are missing DHA, vitamin D and these fatty acids.
Benoit: Let's not forget the mother. The mother is pregnant, and she's being told, "No, don't eat fish. That tuna and swordfish is high in heavy metals and mercury, so stay away from it." She's in her third month, and she's only had fish once a month, and she is probably afraid to eat more.
Mike: So in terms of where people can find these products, are they in most health food stores in this country? What other countries are they available in?
Benoit: We are in the United States, Canada and we have distribution in Singapore and Korea as well as Finland, Norway and we're working on Holland. We also have some distribution in the U.K. and Israel. We are working on a global scale to make sure that the highest quality fish oils are available everywhere. It has been a phenomenal journey. I know people who have taken fish supplements and have burped up a fishy taste and never wanted to touch it again. That doesn't happen with our product, largely because the oil is so fresh and secondly, because of our unique flavoring process, which allows us to flavor the capsule itself and the oil inside. So if someone does burp up anything, they do not taste fish. Typically, a reason why someone would burp is that they either don't have enough of the enzymes to break it down, or the product has gone rancid. Freshness really matters.
Mike: I've heard that complaint from readers before. They say, "You told me to take cod liver oil, and I get this aftertaste."
Benoit: I have a funny story. I won't say the name of the manufacturer, but somebody in this industry created a grape seed extract. They had it manufactured at a specific contract manufacturer, and, accidentally, fish fills made it into their entire lot. One of their customers said, "I'm taking this grape seed extract and I feel great, but I keep burping fish."
So, it's just funny. A lot of people experience that. It becomes something that continues to deter them from taking the fish oil. Omega-3s, DHA and EPA are so involved with every level of our health because they are used in every cell of our body. It's important to look at them and say, "I could add this and enjoy doing it."
Mike: I would like to add that fat can be delicious. It can be added to many recipes, such as a blended drink.
Benoit: Sure, blended drinks and protein shakes. My father made a salad dressing with it once. Protein shakes are a great way to add this. A friend of mine takes about a tablespoon, which is about three times more than the label suggests, and adds it to his chocolate protein shake. He said it makes it taste like one of those chocolate oranges. These are all-natural flavors. Liquid is probably the best way to supplement. This way the body can easily absorb the triglyceride fats through the mouth. That can serve to benefit someone sooner than taking a capsule. But if you do bite down on the capsule, you will get a pleasant peach, lemon and strawberry flavor, as opposed to the strong fish taste or smell that some of our competitors have.
Mike: Do you have a deodorizing process?
Benoit: We do have a process that utilizes steam. If you're talking about our fish oil products, we are using cod and anchovies. These anchovies are saltier, which can lead to a fish odor, but we do use some processes that are unique. We filter the oil in a way that removes particulate matter, and we use a stripping steam process that is all-natural with no chemicals, to help eliminate odor. The only vitamins we're adding are the naturally-occurring vitamin E and in some cases ascorbic acid, vitamin C and rosemary extract, which is a natural stabilizer. This ensures our product a three-year shelf life.
Mike: I have one final question. If everybody in the country started buying this product, what would be the impact on the fish populations?
Benoit: That is a very good question, and I will answer it as concisely as I can. There are several factors that come into play. We have the contract with the fisherman in Norway, which means our cod liver oil is 100 percent cod liver oil. We don't use a blend of oils, which some of our competitors do. Under the Norwegian medicinal standards, you can use site fish or haddock body oils in the place of cod. That is why [some manufacturers] might add synthetic vitamin A and D to cod liver oil to make it look more like the standard.
In Arctic Norway, they have a very stringent fishing policy. This ensures that the waters will never be over-fished in regards to cod fishing. Fines can go upwards to a quarter of a million dollars for a fisherman who exceeds what is allowed. There are only a certain number of fishermen certified at one given time. The Norwegian Ocean Institute goes to check the health and tonnage of various species of fish. They make sure their waters are stable and not experiencing any drifting populations. Over-fishing really isn't an option in Norway.
Now to the second question about whether we meet the demand, I can say today that we don't have a problem, and we've never run into a back order before, even though we've grown tremendously. We've secured extra stock and contracts to ensure that over the next few years we won't experience any issues there, unless there is an unforeseen natural disaster. An interesting thing to think about is that one cod liver can be roughly the size of your head. The fish may not be all that big, but the size of the liver in some cases is a third of the size of the fish. It is a giant liver. If you see a picture of a cod, it is bulging out around the mid section. It resembles a salmon when it is carrying all of its eggs. I don't know if you've gone fishing, but personally I have had that experience, and you see it bulging out. One liver can yield as many as six bottles at eight ounces apiece. The refining technique is really where the cost is built in. You really have to refine the oil. We pay a premium to get that meat before processing, so it is as fresh as can be.
Mike: Wonderful. The product names are Children's DHA and Arctic Cod Liver Oil. Thank you for your time, Corinna.
Benoit: Thank you, Mike.