The restricted launch is part of a multi-pronged strategy to bring the carotenoid ingredient to market said CEO David Watumull. The Honolulu-based company has been meeting with physicians and other health care providers in the state to build awareness of the ingredient.
“Just having a product on the shelf does not create a sale,” Watumull told NutraIngredients-USA. “Most buying decisions are driven by physicians’ recommendations. We have coordinated our launch with GNC in Hawaii where we have been doing our physician outreach.”
Watumull said the company has had surprising success telling the story of astaxanthin to health care influencers in the state. Perhaps part of the reason is that competitor Cyanotech, which makes natural astaxanthin from algae at a facility on the Big Island, has plowed the field with its own line of finished goods under the Nutrex Hawaii brand name.
“I think frankly competition is good for everybody. There is an awareness of astaxanthin in Hawaii that is probably greater than in other geographical areas,” he said.
Inflammation at the root
Watumull said the company’s approach to health care professionals has been based on the fundamental role inflammation plays in many disease processes in the body.
“We talk to them about the role of inflammation in health. Having a product that address inflammatory health so effectively is really helpful,” Watumull said. The fact that inflammation is so ubiquitous means the product can potentially play in a lot of different categories, such as sports nutrition and anti-aging, Watmull said.
“Inflammation stress and oxidative stress play a role in so many areas: it plays a role in the aging process, so there are some intriguing possibilities for astaxanthin in that space. But they are all related. They all stem from the some molecular problems,” he said.
The Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA) was formed to push the benefits of the naturally-derived product. Present and past members of the association have filed New Dietary Ingredient notifications on their ingredients. Cardax is hanging its regulatory hat on a self-affirmed GRAS positioning.
“As we know, synthetic astaxanthin has been on the market in food for decades in the form of farmed salmon,” Watumull said. (Synthetic astaxanthin has been an additive in fish feed to give the flesh of farmed salmon an appealing red color).
Watumull said the limited launch of the product branded as Zanthosyn is something of a proof of concept and can help the company raise additional capital to take the brand further.
“We certainly need to demonstrate the viability and credibility of our plan first in Hawaii. We have not revealed publicly any specific time to expand, and that will depend on sufficient resources to do the expansion,” he said.