Solix, which is based in Fort Collins by Colorado State University, which acts as a resource, has been marketing an astaxanthin ingredient branded as Solasta for more than a year and also this year launched its Solmega algal DHA ingredient. Solix CEO Austin Maguire said the company has acquired several certifications such as a NPA GMP certification and a ‘quality approved’ seal from ConsumerLab that serve as quality differentiators in the hotly competitive field of algal ingredients.
Among the company’s new offerings is a 10% astaxanthin oleoresin, which Maguire said the company was able to engineer so that it provides flowability benefits that some competitors’ products do not.
“A lot of customers were telling us that they can’t get a low viscosity 10% oleoresin. A lot of the 10% ingredients out there are almost like a paste and need to be heated to get them to flow,” Maguire told NutraIngredients-USA.
Maguire said setting the quality bar at a high level was part of the company’s original corporate DNA. Solix grew out of a previous biofuels venture, which, like so many others, was undercut by the fracking revolution and foundered on the rocks of low oil prices. But the expertise that was garnered in that venture, which included a now-shelved algae cultivation technology, was put to good use in putting together a team for algal nutraceuticals, Maguire said.
“We decided early on that we were going to have a very high quality product,” Maguire said. “I ran the Splenda sweetener business (Macquire worked for Tate & Lyle for 16 years) which was an FDA-approved food additive. So I’m very used to working in an FDA GMP-approved quality system.”
“Besides the ConsumerLab and NPA certifications, the other differentiator is that we produce to the USP specification. That is something that our customers are starting to demand,” he said.
Part of producing to the USP standards is to control the amount of pheophorbide in the finished astaxanthin product. Pheophorbide is a breakdown product of chlorophyll.
“We have filed a couple of patents on that and have developed a couple of porcesses specifically to remove it,” Maguire said.
Quality in the algal ingredients field often revolves around a company’s production processes. My algal ingredient is better because I do a better job of growing my algae, or so the argument seems to go. Solix is relying solely on the quality of its controls on the extraction and blending processes. It grows no algae itself and relies on cultivation partners for the source of its algal biomass. It was part of a strategic decision to avoid the large capital expenditures that an agricultural operation would entail.
“We decided to let the famers do what they do. We test every batch of biomass that comes in from overseas, and we have had customers go to the source and audit those operations without any problems,” Maguire said.
“One of the things we wanted to be careful about is we don’t put a lot of money into infrastructure. As supply catches up and prices come down I don’t want to be caught with a lot of expensive infrastructure,” Maguire said.
One bit of infrastructure that the company does plan to invest in is own extraction facility. At the moment Solix is doing custom blending and formulation for its customers but is relying on a partner in Colorado for the actual extraction. But the company has been running tests with its own pilot supercritical CO2 apparatus.