Lutein sales double in 12 months for Chinese supplier, but marigold shortage threatens

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Lutein sales are up for Chinese supplier Fenchem
Lutein sales are up for Chinese supplier Fenchem

Related tags: Eye health, European union

Chinese ingredients supplier Fenchem reports that sales of eye health carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have doubled in a year to break the million-dollar mark for the first time – even as a marigold shortage sets in.

Company spokesperson Junny Liu said the 12-month period has seen sales jump from $450,000 (€330,000) to $1m (€732,000) as demand has risen from food supplement makers in Europe and the US as well as new Asian markets like Malaysia.

Fenchem said ongoing expansion could be thwarted by a shortage in lutein source, marigold flowers, but the company had managed to secure supply.

This year the raw material marigold is in shortage because of the weather,” ​Liu said. “But Fenchem has a contracted material co-operator, so we have stable material source and our product price is stable and competitive.”

Fenchem’s European efforts are being assisted by the new office it opened in 2010 in the Czech Republic in its bid to gain traction in western markets. Global human-use lutein supply is dominated by Kemin-DSM, Cognis-BASF and Omniactive.

Fenchem also does business in the animal feed area where lutein is used to colour poultry skin and egg yolk.

It offers its LuMarin version at 5% to 95% purity and ZeaMarin at 5% to 40%.

The growth comes despite the fact the highly strict European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin claims for eye health, skin health and other areas. This occurred despite, in the case of lutein, eye health claims being approved in places like France, the US and the Asia Pacific.

But some lutein suppliers are busy commissioning new studies designed with the peculiar requirements of the European system in mind that may bolster new submissions into the European Union system.

The US is by far the most developed market for lutein-based eye health products, partly due to a greater acceptance of dietary supplements, and partly due to higher levels of awareness, according to data from Frost & Sullivan.

Markets

Frost & Sullivan placed the US eye health ingredients market at $138m (€100m) in 2008, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3 per cent from 2008 to 2015. The European market was valued at $43.4m (€32m) in 2007 with a CAGR of 10.5 per cent from 2007 to 2014.

In addition to carotenoids, Fenchem supplies fish oils, natural vitamin E and multivitamin products, and tailor-made multi-nutrient premixes for human supplements, dairy products and other foods.

The company was the first Chinese firm to gain an IP certificate for natural tocopherols and phytosterols in 2004. In 2006, it became the only Chinese manufacturer to receive an EU novel foods authorisation for phytosterols.

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