So Natural, which also owns Australia's number three canned seafood brand Paramount, said the 'Thorpedo' products are expected to generate more than $A50 million (€31m) within three years.
Ian Thorpe, a cult figure in Asia, told journalists in Sydney that the public company was aiming to launch three new beverages in Japan and Australia by July before entering the Chinese market by early 2005.
So Natural is one of Australia's largest producers of conventional and organic soy foods, and its range of soy milks, soy yoghurts, rice milks and other functional drinks generate around A$25 million each year.
Its purchase of Paramount Seafoods, an established retail brand in Australia and Asia, is part of its strategy to become a leading participant in functional foods, with additional operations under development. So Natural will market new seafood products on the back of growing awareness of the health benefits of fish, particularly those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to protect heart health.
Omega-3 fortified foods represent a €38 million opportunity for food manufacturers, according to recent data from Frost & Sullivan, and this is expected to grow by 10 per cent per year for the next three years before reaching a plateau. The market has also been helped by the strong nutrition messages from the National Heart Foundation, which advises at least two fish meals a week.
So Natural also has a strategic alliance with Bumble Bee Seafoods, the world's leading branded full-line canned seafood company, with leading positions in the US and Canadian markets. The new range could also be sold in the US.
According to a report by The Age, Thorpe will initially get 5 per cent of So Natural, valued at about A$1.1 million, under the terms of the new venture.