Valensa International has said it will increase its capacity for extracting Haematococcus pluvialis, an algae used to make the carotenoid, after demand outstripped supply. The firm said capacity will increase by a fifth to meet increasing demand in the European and Asian markets. The astaxanthin will also be pesticide and allergen free. The move mirrors predicted growth in the astaxanthin market. In summer, a report by Global Analysts said sales of astaxanthin will rocket over the next few years as consumers turn to natural, healthy ingredients. Analysts said the world astaxanthin market stands to hit the €159m ($219m) by the year 2010. The benefits of astaxanthin are said to be numerous, and include enhancing eye health, improving muscle strength and endurance and protecting the skin from premature ageing, inflammation and UVA damage. It has also been suggested that Astaxanthin has a free radical fighting capacity worth 500 times that of vitamin E. The Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae is part of the diet of fish like salmon and lobster and its rich astaxanthin content is responsible for the pink colour in their flesh. Astaxanthin, a carotenoid, has in the past been manufactured mainly for feeding to farmed salmon to enhance their colour. But recent studies suggesting that astaxanthin is a more powerful antioxidant than the vitamins C and E, and even other carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene, have spurred new sales to supplement makers. Valensa introduced its astaxanthin product - Zanthin - to the European market at Vitafoods in Geneva last May, following the UK Food Standards Agency approval that it may be marketed as a dietary supplement at a maximum dose of 4 mg daily in EU member countries. Dr Rudi Moerck, president of Valensa, said: "There is growing interest and excitement about the potential of astaxanthin - the world's most potent antioxidant with clinical trial data indicating support in areas such as eye health, neurological health, immune support, inflammation reduction and skin health. Recently, the demand for a high quality, pesticide-free source of the product has outstripped supply."