Astaxanthin is a natural red pigment previously produced 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, has spurred new sales to supplement makers.
Algatechnologies has developed a cost-effective process to produce the carotenoid from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. It has recently secured several long-term agreements with leading companies in the industry.
In an initial phase the company will increase its capacity to a total of 1.4 metric tons of astaxanthin. In a second phase this will be expanded to reach 2-3 metric tons.
"The market is ready to use this exciting carotenoid in several categories," said Ed Hofland, chairman of the firm.
Frost & Sullivan estimates that astaxanthin is now one of the fastest growing carotenoids in Europe. But in early 2004 only 1 ton of astaxanthin was being used for supplements, compared to up to 150 tons for the aquaculture industry.
Since then, Algatechnologies has promoting its product for food and supplement use.