Key Interview: Algatech Targets Synergistic Effects to Advance Microalgae Industry

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27 Jun 2017 --- Interest in microalgae has surged over the past decade, and as a result, a growing number of companies have sought to develop new products and technologies to harness the myriad health benefits these unicellular species provide. And according to Algatechnologies, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of microalgae’s potential benefits and applications. 

“Out of more than 200,000 known species of microalgae, currently only approximately ten species are grown on a commercial scale. So many beneficial nutrients in microalgae are as of yet undiscovered, showing that this industry is really in its early stages,” Efrat Kat, VP Marketing & Sales at Algatechnologies, tells NutritionInsight.

The Israeli company recently expanded its production facilities for the Haematococcus Pluvialis microalgae it uses in the natural astaxanthin products of its AstaPure brand. 

Click to Enlarge“During this expansion, we also dedicated part of our facilities to new product development. Algatech sees itself as a leading microalgae company; we have the know-how and the experience, as well as the right infrastructure and location. There is still a lot of untapped potential, and we want to further develop this industry,” explains Kat.

Following the expansion, the company “recruited an entire team of R&D people, including a head of business development who will focus on new product development. We are expanding our team, but also our presence in the market,” Kat says. “We are looking to recruit more people for our team, and we are also conducting more clinical studies on our astaxanthin and related products.”

Recently, the company announced the opening of a US subsidiary, based in New York, which will accelerate development of the growing market in North America for its microalgae ingredient brand, AstaPure, as well as new microalgae sources in the pipeline. 

Educating Consumers
“We have been selling the AstaPure brand for 15 years now, so we are quite experienced in [producing and researching] natural astaxanthin. The market changed a lot between 2011 and 2015, due to good promotional programs in Japan and the US,” Kat explains. 

However, this surge in demand came with a downside. “Demand was much higher than supply, creating shortages in the market. New companies started to offer astaxanthin, but this was inferior in terms of quality and the supply was unstable, which negatively affected the market.”

“What we are now seeing is that the new comers are phasing out. First of all, growing high-quality microalgae that meets regulatory standards in an efficient way is hard, especially on a commercial scale. Demand is still growing, but we feel more needs to be done to educate the consumer about the health benefits of natural astaxanthin,” Kat notes, adding that the company is investing heavily in research to provide a base to further promote astaxanthin to the public.

Astaxanthin is known to be an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient, which is why it has been studied thoroughly for a range of health benefits, Kat asserts.

“In the US market, it is mainly used for eye health, sports nutrition and general wellbeing, while in Asian countries, such as Japan, it is mainly used for skin and eye health. In Europe, on the other hand, it is used in a variety of products as a single ingredient, but also blended with other active ingredients. This is of particular interest, as we believe astaxanthin has synergistic effects with other active ingredients, so we believe different formulations will provide enhanced health benefits.”

To further develop these synergistic effects, Algatechnologies recently partnered up with Lycored for the distribution of Algatech's AstaPure natural astaxanthin carotenoid in the form of beadlets, increasing the brand's commercial reach for this product range in the North American market.

This timely partnership comes following Lycored's newest patent for “Astaxanthin Anti-Inflammatory Synergistic Combinations,” which acknowledges that the synergistic combination of astaxanthin and tomato-derived lycopene works to suppress inflammation in the body. 

Additionally, Algatech is working with Fuji film company in Japan who created a cosmetic product line based on Algatech’s astaxanthin.

Click to EnlargeJoining Forces
As a founding member of the Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA), Algatechnologies has recognized the benefits of working together with similar companies to spread the word on the benefits of natural astaxanthin. It is important to note, however, that NAXA is not a quality certification organization and test the products to verify that the astaxanthin used is derived from Haematococcus Pluvialis only.

“Our idea is to join forces, even with competitors. We all share the same interests; namely increasing consumer awareness about astaxanthin. Higher budgets will also allow us to be more effective.”

“Competition isn’t problematic because it would be hard for us to grow the market on our own. What we are concerned about is competitors that are supplying inferior-quality products.”

According to Kat, Algatech’s core strength lies in the fact that it always sticks to the same strategy: “We believe that supplying 100 percent pure product requires tremendous amounts of knowledge, experience and constant attention to details. And this is what we are planning to continue to do.”

So what is on the cards in terms of an expansion of production capacity? “Algatechnologies is a leading producer of natural astaxanthin, and when we recently expanded our facilities, we made sure to allocate part of the facilities to new product development.”

“The good thing about our production technology is that it isn’t complicated to add more photobioreactors, which we can do gradually. And of course, we have the land. The land is not the limiting resource in the desert,” Kat concludes.

by Lucy Gunn

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