New Algae Strains
According to natural-astaxanthin suppliers at SupplySide West, the industry’s struggles to meet rising demand with supply are long past. Suppliers are now looking forward with a focus on new research, new applications, and even new algae strains. Supply Is Back First of , companies reassure that the days when natural-astaxanthin suppliers couldn’t meet skyrocketing demand (back in around 2010–2011) are far behind. “T e supply gap was short-lived. It’s almost ancient history,” said Joe Kuncewitch, national sales manager, AstaReal (Burlington, NJ). “Since then, folks like AstaReal have taken the care to do the right thing, and that is ramp up supply.” In 2014, AstaReal opened a facility in Moses Lake, WA, where the company uses photobioreactors to produce AstaReal natural astaxanthin. Kuncewitch added that the f rm also tripled capacity at its Gustavsberg, Sweden, facility, adding more indoor photobioreactor tanks to grow algae using UV light. “It’s a modular system, so we can just add more reactors and grow more algae,” he said, noting that expansion may not be so easy for astaxanthin suppliers engaged in autotrophic growing requiring open ponds. Ed Hof and, chairman of Algatechnologies (Kibbutz Ketura, Israel), also said supply is back. “T ere was obviously a shortage in astaxanthin supply up to about a year, yearand- a-half ago,” he said. “What happens normally then, everybody’s expanding, so the new supply came to the market at one time. Also, some additional players came into the market, and our feeling is that we’re getting close to a balance again between supply and demand.” Algatechnologies also uses photobioreactor systems to grow its AstaPure natural astaxanthin. Producing algae isn’t always easy, as Haematococcus pluvialis, the source of most natural astaxanthin on the market today, requires mild growing conditions. “It’s the Goldilocks of algae,” Kuncewitch said. “It doesn’t like it too hot; it doesn’t like it too cold. It’s very f nicky. You can’t grow it just anywhere. It needs the right nutrients, the right light, the right heat, the right temperature.” “Not many folks can do it,” he added. “Some folks try; they fail.” Focus on Sports Nutrition Astaxanthin’s claim to fame are its widereaching antioxidant benef ts. Studies show that by improving mitochondrial function, natural astaxanthin can benef t many aspects of human health, from eye health to skin health to heart health. Sports nutrition is a big focus area for many natural-astaxanthin suppliers these days, and sports nutrition marketers are interested in kind. In 2011, for instance, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute performed a small, one-month study1 on a low dose (4 mg/day) of AstaReal astaxanthin in 14 cyclists. Researchers found that the AstaReal group signif cantly reduced cycling times by 5% and increased power output by 15% following supplementation.