Astaxanthin venture makes push into European market

Related tags Carbon dioxide

Israeli firm Algatechnologies has created a new joint venture firm
with the supercritical extraction specialist US Nutra to push the
carotenoid astaxanthin for use in foods and supplements.

The new firm, called Valensa, will market the antioxidant ingredient, still relatively unknown in the food industry, as well as other high purity supercritical Co2 botanical extracts produced by US Nutra.

US Nutra​ is currently its biggest customer for the Zanthin brand astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin is said to be one of the most potent natural antioxidants, with evidence to suggest that it helps protect tissues such as eyes and skin against ageing and inflammation. It can also offer help in boosting immunity, muscular endurance and male fertility, according to some research.

But currently less than 1 ton of astaxanthin is going into supplements per year, compared to up to 150 tons for the aquaculture industry.

Algatechnologies, which has been producing the carotenoid from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis​ in closed culture for some years, says the main cause of the limited penetration of astaxanthin in the food market is a lack of commercial quantities of a high enough quality.

Most of the synthetic material being produced goes to the fish farming industry while other producers of the natural carotenoids are produced in open culture, offering a lower purity.

"Nobody can compete with us on quality,"​ Ed Hofland, CEO of Algatechnologies, told "We have a 100 per cent pure natural extract."

The new marketing venture is backed by a budget "bigger than seven numbers"​ according to Hofland, who says the ingredient is seeing strong growth this year, with demand rising on a weekly basis.

"We definitely feel the market is increasing rapidly on the back of clinical trials that demonstrate its efficacy."

Frost & Sullivan estimates that astaxanthin is now one of the fastest growing carotenoids in Europe. European carotenoids were worth $348.5 million in 2003, with 17 per cent of this coming from supplements.

Hofland added that continuing R&D efforts will lead to a number of sophisticated product forms to offer the ingredient in a wide range of applications. It is already available in a beverage on the Japanese market and gained novel foods approval in the European Union in May this year.

The first European food launches, which could also include cereal bars, are expected within the next six months.

Valensa will also develop new forms like the astaxanthin-cranberry seed oil blend, trademarked as AstaCran, designed to offer an unusual combination of antioxidant power, essential fatty acids, a range of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols, and phytosterols.

The venture, "more of a marketing vehicle than anything else"​, will also supply saw palmetto, cranberry seed, ginger, rosemary, oregano and Valerex brand valerian, many of which are extracted using high pressure supercritical carbon dioxide extraction.

US Nutra is one of the world's leading suppliers of saw palmetto extracts.

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