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Should you buy cheap omega-3 fish oils or look for quality?

| APR 7, 2022

I was in my local health food store recently and spotted they’re selling omega-3 fish oil capsules for £1.19!  That’s for 30 capsules.  A bargain right?   Quite enticing when electricity prices are now in the thousands and food prices are rocketing with inflation.  We’re all getting a bit twitchy about our finances and are thinking about where we can cut spend.  


It could be tempting to stop buying supplements or start buying really cheap ones.  What’s the difference after all?

Well, let’s analyse this brand. Starting with the price.

It’s £1.19. 

Minus the VAT (which just goes to the Government) = 99p.

Take off the cost of the plastic pot, the label, the filling, the warehousing costs and delivery costs.  Let’s say that’s 40p per pot all in (and that’s a VERY low estimate – it costs us significantly more than that).  That leaves 59p which is what you’re paying for 30 capsules.  So that’s roughly 2p per capsule. For the capsules, you pay for the fish oil, the capsule shell and the manufacturing of the capsule shell.  

Are you starting to wonder what the quality of this supplement is like? You’re paying 2p per capsule.  Think about that…

But wait, it gets worse! Now remember at this point that the brand needs to make money on each one.

The retailer will take at least 40% so let’s assume the brand is selling it to the retailer for 54p.  No, this is making my head explode! It’s impossible! Our retailers take minimum of 45% (going up to 60% in some cases).

OK - let’s say the retailer takes 35% so the brand is selling each unit to them for 64p.  I can’t figure out how they make any money!  Which means they must be making these for literal pennies. Let’s say they make each pot, all in, for 40p.  Including the capsules.  They make 24p on each unit.  Then they have to pay all their other costs… salaries, offices, etc…  

If it does cost them 40p all in, the capsules (the most expensive part) must be costing them next to nothing.  Imagine the quality of that fish oil!

I feel like I should stop right here but let’s analyse the product now - we have blurred it not "name names" but on their packaging it says...

1 x 500mg capsule contains 90mg EPA and 60mg DHA and 10mg Vitamin E.

Let's compare that to 1 x Life & Soul mini capsule (also 500mg) contains 215mg EPA and 110mg DHA and 1.6mg Vitamin E.

There is more than twice the amount of EPA in one of our capsules and just under double the amount of DHA.  You might be wondering why I mention the Vitamin E?  All fish oils contain it as a preservative to stop the fish oil going rancid.  Why does that brand have over 6 times more per capsule than ours? I’ll let you work that one out…

Not to mention we have no idea where their fish oil comes from, what the capsules are made of, what their test results are like etc etc…

In summary, this is an extreme example of an incredibly cheap fish oil supplement but it’s 100% real. I saw it with my own eyes and took this photo. When you buy something you’re going to eat (or put on your skin), think about the price from a different point of view.  Think about the quality of that thing you’re buying.  Take off all the VAT, the retailer margin, all the other costs involved in producing a product and getting it into your hands and think about what you’re paying for the actual ingredients.  It’s rather scary...

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