Chondroitin has established a strong joint health reputation in the US and Asia with studies indicating that supplementation may benefit people suffering from osteoarthritis.
For the moment, chondroitin is predominantly sourced from the cartilage of sharks, and to a lesser extent pigs and cows. But Martek believes that it can bring a vegetarian source of chondroitin to market using its microbial fermentation technology.
The company has teamed up with Japanese company Seikagaku to work on the development of a vegan version of chondroitin.
Seikagaku will bring their expertise in chondroitin to the table while Martek while bring along its knowledge of microbial fermentation.
Martek is best known for the development of vegetarian source of DHA Omega-3 from microbial sources.
On the latest project with Seikagaku, Martek plans to use a broadly similar technique to develop an alternative to chondroitin sourced from cartilage.
For DHA Omega-3, Martek fermented micro algae in big, dark vats using sugar and then let the algae dry out before extracting the desired ingredient.
Martek spokesperson Cassie France-Kelly said the company will use the same technique to extract chondroitin but the source will be bacteria rather algae.
The project is already underway but Martek is still some way from commercialisation. France-Kelly said it will take at least two years before a product comes to market.
But when it does, the Martek spokesperson said there is significant market potential.
She said vegetarians, vegans, people with allergies, and eco-friendly consumers will all be interested in chondroitin that is not sourced from animals.