ennifer Grebow writes in Nutritional Outlook that astaxanthin supplier AstaReal, of Burlington, NJ, one of the founding members of the Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA), announced it is leaving the association, citing concerns over the association’s ability to affirm the quality of its membership’s astaxanthin ingredients.
AstaReal (as part of Fuji Chemical Group), together with astaxanthin suppliers Cyanotech Corp. (Kailua-Kona, HI) and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Kibbutz Ketura, Israel), banded together to form NAXA in January 2014 as a way to unite suppliers of Haematococcus pluvialis-derived astaxanthin and to draw the distinction between producers of algae-derived astaxanthin and producers of nature-identical astaxanthin. Today, NAXA’s members also include China-based suppliers Beijing Ginkgo Group (BGG) and new member Yunnan Alphy Biotech Company, Ltd.
The pressure has increased for NAXA to support more specific quality standards for its members. Joe Kuncewitch, national sales manager for AstaReal, said, “NAXA membership may give the false impression that all members are offering astaxanthin of equivalent quality. However, NAXA only confirms that member companies are producing astaxanthin from algae. They don’t perform extensive quality testing.”
Efrat Kat, VP Marketing & Sales at Algatechnologies said that her company stresses quality and ecological responsibility. “For dietary supplements companies, this means there is a significant opportunity to show their commitment to sustainability by sourcing ethical ingredients. Brands that recognize the importance of launching eco-friendly products can also gain a first-mover advantage over their competitors.”
Algatechnologies produces AstaPure® natural astaxanthin in Israel’s Arava desert. Their state-of-art production facility uses solar power to cultivate the microalgae in an enclosed system of glass tube photobioreactors. The microalgae are grown in fresh water sourced from a local borehole, 80% of which is purified and recycled for re-use at the plant, further reducing Algatechnologies’ environmental footprint.
AstaReal maintains that “although all NAXA member companies produce astaxanthin from H. pluvialis, there are vast differences in the cultivation technology, quality standards, and research capabilities of each company.” He said that by separating itself from NAXA, AstaReal plans to emphasize the advantages of its ingredients over other suppliers’.
Scott Steinford, NAXA’s president, defends the association’s vetting practices, stating that the group requires all members to undergo “third-party testing.” He said that NAXA’s Natural Astaxanthin Verification Program, which is now rolling out to its members, is for “raw-material producers that have met the standards of the program as confirmed by independent lab testing.”
“We expect to establish a standard to apply to consumer products to ensure the verification of natural astaxanthin as derived from Haematococcus pluvialis,” he added.