Astaxanthin is produced by the haematacoccus pluvialis algae when water supplies in its habitat dry up to protect itself against the effects of UV radiation.
The FSA describes astaxanthin as 'a colouring made from algae'. Indeed, astaxanthin has a red colour and is also used in fish feed to give fish and crustaceans an appealing pink colour. But it has also been shown to be a powerful antioxidant.
Cyanotech markets it BioAstin line in the US as protecting the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation, enhancing the immune system, and enhance energy metabolism. It holds three usage patents: for carpal tunnel syndrome, for cold and canker sores, and as an internal and topical sunblock.
Although dried H. pluvialis is currently sold in the EU, and has been contained in supplements for at least the last 11 years, Cyanotech's ingredient is an astaxanthin-rich extract.
The company offers two supercritical CO2 extract oleoresins under the BioAstin brand: SCE5 containing 5 percent natural astaxanthin and SCE7 containing 7 per cent natural astaxanthin. Both also contain other mixed carotenoids and are standardised with high oleic safflower oil.
Annual growth of the global market for astaxanthin for human use is thought to be at least 15 per cent, with current estimates valuing the market at $15-20m (€12.4-16.6m) per year.Cyanotech CEO Gerald Cysewski told NutraIngredients.com last year that the main markets for the ingredient are Asia and the US, with Europe lagging three or four years behind. Although the market in Europe is growing, there is not so much awareness at both customer and retailer level.
Clearly moving to position itself early on, Cyanotech has asked the FSA for its opinion on whether its extract can be viewed as equivalent to the whole algal product on the market. The FSA-appointed independent Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) is calling for views on the application.
The ACNFP Secretariat is receiving comments by email@example.com" target="_blank">email until July 17 2006.