Special Edition: Antioxidants

Supply: Beta-carotene club and beyond

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Antioxidant, Dsm

In the second part of our antioxidants special, NutraIngredients focuses on the carotenoids where the vitamin A converter, beta-carotene, is still lording it over lutein and lycopene and DSM and BASF’s synthetic versions continue to dominate that particular carotenoid’s supply.

The global market for carotenoids, which are associated with reduced risk of several chronic health disorders including some forms of cancer, heart disease and eye degeneration, was $766m in 2007, according to BCC Research data.

The analysts forecast that this will increase to $919m by 2015, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.3 per cent. Beta-carotene has the largest share of the market. Valued at $247m in 2007, this segment is expected to be worth $285m by 2015, a CAGR of 1.8 per cent, said BCC researchers.

Lutein, underpinned by rising demand for eye health supplements, ranks second in terms of value in the segment and was worth $105m in 2006, according to Frost and Sullivan with predictions of a market share of $125m in 2013.

Lycopene grabs third pole position in terms of sales within the carotenoids category and is valued at around $50-60m.

Consumer apathy

Industry expert Dr Ulrich März, who has been charting the rise and fall of players in the carotenoid category over the past ten years, told Nutraingredients.com that the segment remains difficult for new entrants in that the category has suffered from consumer apathy fuelled by overexposure to the antioxidant brand.

“With consumers struggling to filter the diluge of information on the market about antioxidant ingredients, they are falling back on the old reliables such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, the health benefits of which they more readily accept,”​ said März

And he stressed that, in the eyes of consumers, the benefits of carotenoids such as astaxanthin are not yet clear enough.

März also claims that this consumer lethargy coupled with recessionary economics inhibiting risk taking is resulting in a fundamental lack of innovation within the segment and a failure on the part of the lead suppliers to develop extraction of beta-carotene, in particular, from natural sources.

Most carotenoids are still produced by chemical synthesis, with the traditional duopoly of DSM and BASF and more recent entrant, Allied Biotech Corporation of Taiwan, generally controlling the market and staving off the Chinese biotech threat that was predicted a few years back, continued März.

And he added that China still has a long way to go in terms of making inroads into the category due to the fact that companies there lack the technical expertise to develop synthetic carotenoids, the production of which, he added, is quite complex.

According to März, most carotenoid suppliers are focused on supplying the dietary supplement market as the functional food market for this branch of antioxidants has yet to fully achieve its potential in terms of volume and wide range in food and beverage application.

He added that beta-carotene’s use as a colouring agent in processed foods is far more significant than its use as a nutritional competent in food and beverages.

Key carotenoid suppliers

DSM supplies a wide range of carotenoids, and along with BASF, dominates the world supply of synthetic beta-carotene. DSM also produces lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin, while BASF, in addition to beta-carotene, markets lycopene-based products.

In Spain, Vitatene produces natural beta carotene from fungus Blakeslea trispora​, as does DSM but at much lower amount when compared to its synthetic beta carotene operation.

Kemin Health of the US has patented a number of lutein based preparations including its FloraGLO range, which first appeared in the US market in 1996 but these products, according to a report on antioxidants from Leatherhead Food Research, have enjoyed limited success in the processed foods market and have instead achieved much higher sales in the dietary supplements sector.

Leatherhead said Kemin’s main rivals in the lutein sector include Biolut owned by Industrias Alcosa of Mexico and Cognis with its natural lutein esters, Xangold.

It notes key suppliers in the lycopene arena include LycoRed with its LycoMato tomato derived extract which, Leatherhead said, has found some applications in processed food in the US market including Kashi cereals and waffles brand, Lightlife vegetarian sausages and some healthy beverage brands.

The Italian firm BioLyco’s facility became operational in the south of the country in 2008 and it extracts lycopene extract from tomato waste using patented technology. It is looking to supply the multinationals in the functional food market, reports Leatherhead.

Japanese market entrant, Fuji Chemical, produces astaxanthin through its two subsidiaries, AstaReal AB in Sweden and BioReal in Hawaii, which utilizes proprietary technology to cultivate and grow naturally occurring microalgae for the production of astaxanthin.

Cyanotech Corporation also markets astaxanthin cultivated from microalgae in Hawaii, while Israel-based biotech firm Algatech’s patented cultivation process employs a closed tubular system for cultivating enriched cells that, the firm claims, provide a high concentration (3 to 4 per cent) of astaxanthin from the algal biomass.

This area and many others will be considered in more detail at the upcoming NutraIngredients Antioxidants 2010 Conference.

For more information and to register, please click here. http://www.ni-antioxidants.com/page/home.html

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