BASF cans CoQ10 amid consumer apathy

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Coq10, Coenzyme q10

After less than two years, BASF has terminated its presence in the
global CoEnzymeQ10 market, citing a lack of demand for its premium,
nanotechnology-driven, highly soluble and bioavailable ingredients.

The company said the market had not met expectations for its clinically backed, fermented CoQ10 offerings despite interest from major US supplements manufacturers. The boosted bioavailability and high absorption claims derived from its nanotechnology-driven encapsulation process, had not been well received by consumers, it said. The fact the price had simultaneously fallen out of the CoQ10 market in 2006 due to increased supply from new Chinese suppliers and established players like Japanese CoQ10 supply leader Kaneka, had been another contributing factor in BASF's withdrawal. Spot prices had plunged from $2000+ per kilogram in 2005 to $300-400 a year later - a level at which prices remain presently. Consumer understanding ​The writing was on the wall when poor sales were coupled with its own consumer research that revealed US consumers were struggling to understand the concept of bioavailability, therefore rendering much of the marketing around the ingredient irrelevant. "The fact is the market wasn't ready for this ingredient at this time but we keep it on our books and customers can request it although we have ceased marketing it,"​ said Emile Henein, BASF Human Nutrition industry manager of dietary supplements in North America. "Who knows, we may relaunch it in the future but for now we felt we couldn't support it in such a niche market."​ He said the company had targeted supplement brands sold into the specialist health channels such as health practitioners and health food stores where better informed consumers were more likely to appreciate the bioavailability benefits of the offerings. "But the demand simply wasn't strong enough and for a company of our size, it becomes difficult to justify our presence in these markets,"​ he said. The fact there exist no established bioavailability markers in either the US or European pharmacopoeias was holding back the market Henein said, and he hoped these may be forthcoming in the near future. "If these were recognized the market would be a lot stronger and marketing would become a lot easier." ​He compared CoQ10 to lycopene, another niche market for BASF, but noted that market possessed a bedrock stability derived from the fact lycopene was typically included in a wide range of multivitamin products whereas CoQ10 was not. Bioavailability and benefits ​Henein said discussions regarding CoQ10 bioavailability, which for many years it struggled to achieve at efficacious levels, were ongoing and praised research work being conducted at institutions such as the Tokyo University of Technology. Researchers there found the bioavailability of coenzyme Q10 was enhanced by formulating emulsions with coconut oil, skimmed milk, and a calcium emulsifier.​CoQ10 has been shown to benefit those suffering from angina, heart attack and hypertension. Its use in supplements, particularly in the US, has been boosted by the rise in popularity of statin drugs which deplete the body's natural stores of CoQ10. Clinical trials have also reported benefits for cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. Others remain buoyant about the market including US-based ZMC which recorded 60 percent growth in the second half of 2007 and said it controlled 30 percent of the US market. It estimated 170m tons of Coenzyme Q10 were sold in the US in 2007. Analyst Euromonitor reported the worldwide market for CoQ10 was worth $510 million in 2004, with the majority of sales in the US and Japan. Mintel noted that there were 35 overall launches of foods and beverages containing CoQ10 globally in 2007, slightly down from 43 products in 2006. There were 18 launches in 2004 and 23 in 2005.

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