Israeli astaxanthin supplier Algatechnologies has said it intends to expand production capacity by 30 percent by the end of 2011, and by a further 50 percent in a year's time, on the back of increased demand in the US and Europe.
Astaxanthin sourced from marine algae is a natural red pigment and carotenoid, which has been linked to cardiovascular and skin health benefits. Algatechnologies supplies astaxanthin under its AstaPure brand for used in food, nutraceutical and skin care products - and the company says demand is rocketing.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA at its facility near Eilat in southern Israel on Tuesday, the company's director of marketing and sales Efrat Kat said: "In the last four or five years the growing interest is from the European and US markets."
In the United States, the ingredient was given a major publicity boost when it was featured on television shows including Dr. Oz and Oprah in the past month.
"We saw a huge increase in demand," she said. "...At this stage, I think it is the perfect timing for the larger companies to start talking about astaxanthin because I don't know of many products that are so new to the market but have the regulatory status and technical support of astaxanthin."
Previously, growth in astaxanthin demand was driven by the Japanese market, Kat said, "perhaps because everything coming from algae is something they are very much used to".
She added that apart from increased demand, the facility's expansion is also the result of several long-term agreements that the company has secured with supplement and nutrition firms.
"Our competitive edge lies in our exclusive proprietary and patented cultivation process," she said. "We are the only company that produces astaxanthin in a closed system that is fully controlled and totally exposed to natural sunlight."
In addition to increasing production capacity for current astaxanthin applications, Algatechnologies said it also intends to develop new, efficient ways of cultivating microalgae, and will establish a pilot plant for this purpose.
Company CEO Hagay Tzur said: "Microalgae contain many nutrients that are found in animal products or in low concentrations in plant foods. It is possible to grow microalgae much more efficiently without the need to compete for diminishing fertile soil. For these reasons we see a growing demand for the development of advanced microalgae technologies."