“We have been in the natural carotenoids business since my father started the business in 1959,” Piveg CEO Roberto Espinoza told NutraIngredients-USA. “We have been operating under the Piveg name since 1986.”
Long history in industry
Piveg has had a long history of supplying carotenoids derived from marigolds in the animal feed and food additive industries and sells into the human nutrition markets, too. The company has marigold production in Mexico and in Peru, providing supply security in the event of a climate event, Espinosa said.
Lately the company has entered into agreements to buy haematococcus pluvialis biomass to extract astaxanthin. But that will change soon as the company has a plan underway to produce its own algae via an open raceway system at an undisclosed site in central Mexico. The central plateau is an ideal location for such a facility in that it has a mild climate with enough solar radiation to induce the algal cells to produce astaxanthin as a protective measure when they are stressed at the end of the production cycle.
“In the astaxanthin business, you have the biomass production, the extraction and the final blending and marketing. We already do the last two. And we have already begun the construction of our own plant in Mexico for the production of biomass,” Espinoza said.
Pivegs offers natural astaxanthin—branded as AstaMarine— in 5% and 10% oil, 2% and 2.5% beadlets, and a 1% cold water dispersible form. It advertises the ingredients as being in compliance with the USP and FCC monographs that outline explicit instructions and protocols for the description, identification, assay determination, labeling, and impurity testing guidelines for astaxanthin esters.
Piveg says the advantage and focus of these compendial monographs is to provide a standardized method for the industry to achieve consistent results regardless of the scientist, laboratory, or company performing the analysis.
“The industry and our customers will greatly benefit from this standard monograph which we have adopted as it will accurately increase quality assurance and serve the industry as a whole with no ties to any particular product, company, or organization,” Espinoza said. “Piveg AstaMarineproducts are held to the strictest standards to provide our customers with guaranteed quality assurance.”
Natural vs synthetic
Recent developments in the astaxanthin sector have shown a spotlight on the question of whether natural or synthetic astaxanthin is superior. Three companies that derive astaxanthin from algae—Cyanotech, Fuji and Algatechnologies—have announced plans to form a group called the Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA) to highlight the differences of natural astaxanthin vs synthetic. On the other side are companies chemically synthesizing the ingredient, chief among them DSM, which synthesizes other carotenoids, too, as well as offering a long list of naturally-derived ingredients.
For Espinoza, it’s a matter of choice. With its natural lutein and zeaxanthin, Piveg has been competing against synthetic sources for decades.
“We have been competing since these guys since the 1960s and we have always competed successfully against them. One thing has to be clear. No one has a privilege to every customer. There are customers that prefer synthetic. And there are other customers that prefer a natural product and that’s where our niche is,” he said.
Espinoza said he held preliminary discussions with one of the organizers of the new group and was given to understand it will remain a three-member association for the time being.
“One of the reasons I wanted to announce our decision to become vertically integrated is I wanted the market to know that there are other natural producers out there,” he said.
“When we talk about astaxanthin, this industry is in diapers compared to the marigold industry. With marigolds we have a sixty year history of going into full industrial production. Astaxanthin has, what, six years in full industrial production?
“The market will continue to grow. Also you will not see in the long run the same number of players because the industry will have to consolidate. The industry will change from people that offer products at just one step of the cycle to companies that have all the capabilities. A company like us that is fully integrated and has all the facilities in place is not going anywhere unless they make big mistakes,” Espinoza said.