Although the Israeli biotech has previously made some direct sales into these markets, it is hoped that the new agreement will lead to the use of astaxanthin in many more dietary supplement and cosmetic products.
Marketing manager Efrat Kat told NutraIngredients.com that the UK and Ireland are regarded as the leading countries in Europe.
"We are developing our marketing infrastructure throughout Europe," she said. "and are in the process of signing a number of contracts."
Kat identified other important markets in the continent as Italy, France, Germany and Benelux. Central and Eastern Europe may also be attractive further down the line.
Last year Algatechnologies was in discussions with US Nutra to market astaxanthin in Europe, but these have not come to fruitiion. US Nutra adopted the name Valensa - which had been mooted as the name for a joint venture between the two companies - as its own.
Valensa distributes astaxanthin in the UK and Ireland through Chesham Chemicals.
The European market is still somewhat behind Japan and the US in recognizing the health benefits of astaxanthin; the carotenoid only gained approval for use in the EU in May 2005 for use in nutraceuticals with a daily dose of up to 4mg.
But the indications are that the Japanese market is poised for rapid growth, and as Europe often follows Japan at a space of about three years there is hope that the growth rate here could be as much as 30, 40 or 50 per cent.
To meet this demand Algatechnologies recently announced that it will increase its capacity by 120 per cent this year to reach 1.4 metric tons from April, with further dramatic expansions planned.
The agreement with S Black allows the Hertfordshire-based distributor to sell all Algatechnologies' AstaPure materials, including new developments in the pipeline.
"In a week or two we will have commercial inventory for our vegetarian astaxanthin beadlets, and as far as I am aware we are the only company supplying this to the market," said Kat. "We are also introducing an astaxanthin emulsion for cosmetics and liquid supplements, and are looking into other products as well."
In the future it is hoped that astaxanthin will also be used as a food additive in Europe, but the time and expense needed to get through the regulatory process means this is still some way off.
Algatechnologies is the most recent entrant to the astaxanthin market and has an exclusive license to a patented process that it claims gives it significant cost advantages over its biggest rival in supplements.
It uses 170km of transparent tubing to enclose the Haematococcus pluvialis algae cultures, and intense natural sunlight puts the algae - initially a greenish colour when healthy - under stress so that they produce the bright red pigment astaxanthin in defence.
This red biomass is then delicately dried and shipped to the US in flakes where supercritical carbon dioxide extraction draws out the pure astaxanthin.
Tests have suggested that astaxanthin may have a free radical fighting capacity worth 500 times that of vitamin E. Unlike other carotenoids like lycopene and beta-carotene, it can cross the blood-brain barrier, giving it the potential to positively impact the central nervous system and vision.
Research on animals and some human clinical trials have suggested that the carotenoid may help protect against cataracts and UVA damage to the skin, as well as a number of other serious conditions such as stroke.