Italy-based Lupi, a subsidiary of the Danish pharmaceuticals group Lundbeck, told NutraIngredients.com that it has carried out a feasibility study on coQ10 production and could proceed to semi-industrial scale tests by the end of March.
Luigi Trussardo, business development manager at Lupi, said that the firm has investigated whether the reaction process could be implemented in its plant and whether it has the internal capacity for production.
It has also checked availability of raw materials.
"Theoretically, it is possible, but we have to make real tests on the equipment needed to move to industrial scale production and still have not reached pilot scale stage," Trussardo said.
However he added that CoQ10 is considered an interesting opportunity for the company, as the ingredient is in strong demand yet requires significant chemicals expertise to produce.
"We looked at several new market areas. Nutraceuticals are relatively close to pharma, and we wanted to use our expertise for a non-commodity product," explained Trussardo.
He declined to reveal whether the firm would develop new production methods.
CoQ10 is currently produced in a labour-intensive fermentation process by a handful of Japanese companies. There is also thought to be some Chinese-source CoQ10 on the market.
Research in 2002 showing that it could help slow Parkinson's disease triggered a surge in demand that continues to rise, outstripping the supply and driving prices up to between $3000-4000 per kg, from $1400 in 2003.
A recent change in regulatory status for the ingredient in Japan - from drug to food category - has placed further pressure on supplies, alongside the trend for consumers to take higher doses.
Last year Kaneka, which supplies between 60-70 per cent of the CoQ10 sold in the US (estimated to be at least a third and possibly much more of the global market), doubled annual production of coQ10 at its Takasago, Japan, facility to 150 metric tons and announced that it will open a new plant in the US in 2006, with an initial capacity of a further 100 tons.
In addition to its availability as a supplement, CoQ10 is also found in toothpaste, skincare products and chewing gum, and Kaneka is currently developing new technologies to add it to energy bars and health beverages.