The firm had increased capacity at its Eustis, Florida, facility by 20 percent in February last year. Early this month, it completed a further 20 percent capacity boost.
“There’s definitely been an increase in demand in the market, principally for eye health applications. In 2008 our capacity increase was primarily in response to more demand from European customers. This time, it’s both North American and European demand,” said Valensa president and CEO Dr Rudi Moerck.
Eye health – and more
Astaxanthin is an antioxidant-rich carotenoid around which a growing body of science is demonstrating eye, heart, skin and cancer prevention properties.
Some versions of astaxanthin are said to have an antioxidant payload 500 times that of vitamin E.
Valensa holds a US patent for its astaxanthin in relation to oxidative stress-related eye health conditions. The firm licenses out the patent, entitled Method of retarding and ameliorating central nervous system and eye damage (US 5527533), which has generated even more customer demand, said Dr Moerck.
The latest capacity increase involved a $1m investment, and saw additional preparation, grinding and extracting equipment. Valensa said it now produces 1,500kg of 100 percent pure astaxanthin per year, which it then sells as a 7 percent oleoresin.
According to Dr Moerck, one of the major drivers behind increased customer demand for its astaxanthin product – Zanthin – is that it is extracted in a US facility and is guaranteed pesticide and allergen free.
“We buy the biomass from various suppliers around the world, then we conduct the extraction in Florida, where we follow GMP guidelines and produce consistent high quality,” Dr Moerck told NutraIngredients-USA.com.
The company does not currently have third-party GMP accreditation, but said it intends to meet all requirements of 21 CFR 111 on or before June 2009. It is also assessing the value and cost of third party certification, following an appropriate audit of its QA system.
Four global leaders
Valensa is one of four major astaxanthin players – the others being Israel-based Algatechnologies, Hawaii-based Cyanotech and Japan’s Fuji Chemical Industry Company via its Scandiniavian subsidiary, Astareal.
Valensa said its primary market is Europe, where it claims to hold around 45 percent of the total astaxanthin market. In North America, the company said it holds around 35 percent market share. Dr Moerck said the Far East is also a growing market for Valensa, particularly Thailand, Malaysia, India and Korea.
The global astaxanthin market is estimated at about $252m, most of which is used in fish colouration. The human uses market is growing and estimated at about $27-$40m.
Most astaxanthin is derived from the algae, Haematococcus pluvialis, which is commonly consumed by fish and crustaceans – like salmon and lobster – and is responsible for their pink colouration.