Valensa’s deal comes at the same time it has joined with krill omega-3 specialist, Neptune Technologies and Bioressources to develop astaxanthin-omega-3 combinations.
But the ingredient suffered a blow in Europe last week when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued an opinion stating astaxanthin-linked eye health benefits were not supported by the available science.
That opinion can be found here.
But this side of the pond, Valensa’s patent backs several eye health conditions.
Valensa says its patent-protected process (University of Illinois; US 5,527,533) can be used by New York-based FutureBiotics; North Dakota-based Swanson Health Products and Arizona-based Life Extension Vitamins in eye health supplements.
The patent is relevant for light-induced retinal damage, age-related macular degeneration, photoreceptor cell retinal damage and damage to neurons of inner retinal layers and produces an ingredient with a four-year shelf life, Valensa said.
Along with lutein and zeaxanthin, astaxanthin has risen in the market due to research linking it with eye health.
Valensa president and chief executive officer, Dr Rudi E. Moerck, said it was gaining ground on the other two nutrients.
"While lutein and zeaxanthin are often promoted as leading eye health supplement ingredients, numerous scientific studies have shown that astaxanthin is by far the most effective carotenoid in addressing the free-radical and light-induced singlet oxygen damage associated with visual impairment,” he said.
“With its ability to cross the blood-brain/blood-eye barriers and to concentrate in the central cones of the retinal macula, astaxanthin is now emerging as the pre-eminent solution for eye healthcare supplementation in the management of retinal oxidative stress that would lead to macular degeneration."
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 coloration.
Valensa was unable to be contacted before publication.