Expansions and new suppliers ease CoQ10 bottleneck
A powerful antioxidant, CoQ10 plays a vital role in the production
of chemical energy in mitochondria - the 'power plants' of the cell -
by participating in the production of adenosince triphosphate (ATP),
the body's co-called 'energy currency'.
It has been studied for its role in cognitive health, heart health, and anti-ageing (in oral and topical formulations).
Historically the CoQ10 market has been dominated by four Japanese
players with the capacity to supply multi-ton quantities of the
ingredient, three of which produce CoQ10 through a fermentation
process, with one through organic synthesis.
Until 2002, CoQ10 use in Japan was limited to pharmaceuticals, which
meant that the remainder was available for export to other countries
for use in dietary supplement and skin care products.
But in 2002, Japanese regulations were eased to allow CoQ10 to be
used in supplements and skin care products sold domestically, resulting
in a considerable drop in the quantities available for export.
This coincided with publicity surrounding a scientific study that
presented strong evidence that CoQ10 could help slow the progression of
the neurodegenerative disease Parkinson's.
With consumers clamouring for supplements containing the antioxidant
that could help them maintain their mental faculties for longer - not
to mention those seeking fewer wrinkles - and formulators sought to
meet this demand.
Last year supply was reported to be so tight that the on-the-spot
price of CoQ10 was said by some sources to have reached between US$4000
and $5000 per kg.
By the beginning of May this year the on-the-spot price was said to
have dropped to around $1500 per kilo - a significant come-down as the
major manufacturers have increased their capacity to meet demand.
In particular Kaneka, one of the 'big Japanese four', has expanded
production at its facility in Takasago, Japan, from 150 metric tons to
180 metric tons. It is also constructing a plant in Pasadena, Texas
with an initial annual capacity of 100 metric tons to cater to US
The Pasadena plant was originally foreseen to be completed this
spring, but was hampered by last year's hurricane season. Completion is
now slated for summer 2006. Athough the summer fast approaching, a
spokesperson for the company was unable to give NutraIngredients.com a
more precise date.
Nor is Kaneka planning to stop there; in a statement issued at the
end of 2005, it said it is planning "further expansion of its CoQ10
production capacity in both of its US and Japanese facilities".
New market entrants include Taiwanese company PharmEssentia, which
has spent the last two years perfecting its own organic synthesis
production process (with care not to violate the patents of the
Japanese producers) and scaling it up to bulk capacity.
In August last year it signed an exclusive deal for the US and
Europe with US-based Frontier, which Frontier said effectively makes it
the world's fifth multi-ton supplier of CoQ10. Precise capacity was not
Ingredients companies who source their CoQ10 from such manufacturers
have been working hard to open up use of the ingredient in more kinds
Alan Abolencia, new business development manager at DSM Nutritional
Products told NutraIngredients.com at the Vitafoods trade show in
Geneva last month that the potential for its use in foods is huge.
He said that is where DSM sees future growth - as well as in cosmetics and skin care.
There has been a lot of interest in the sports nutrition field in
particular, since CoQ10 may play a role in helping athletes to maintain
DSM's expertise is in facilitating formulation; in September last
year it introduced its All-Q brand that uses a starch-based powder as a
carrier for 10 per cent purity CoQ10, making the normally fat-soluble
ingredient stable for formulation in water-based beverages, dairy
products or energy drinks, the company said.
Others have set their sights on similar functionality. For instance,
AquaNova has applied its nanotech system known as NovaSol to CoQ10,
whereby the active substance is contained within product micelles. This
is said to make it more bioavailable, and lend the active ingredient
fat and water solubility, which means it can be added to clear liquids
without affecting the clarity.
Israeli start-up NutraLease has also been conducting research in the same area.
For dietary supplements, BASF unveiled two new grades, SoluQ10 5%
and Coenzyme Q10 10% DC, at the end of April. The former, it said, is a
solubilizate of CoQ10 said to have excellent liquid dosing properties
for use in softgels, while the latter is a 10% DC stable, fast-acting
powder for direct compression into tablets.
The company says this means manufacturers no longer need go through
the wet granulation and compaction processes that are necessary when
working with conventional powders.
US distributor Blue California is also offering a new line of
water-soluble coenzyme Q10 ingredients said to be more bioavailable
than standard forms of the co-enzyme. CoQ10-WS is said to be a
free-flowing, water-soluble powder, available in both 10 and 20 percent
concentrations. It is suitable for use in beverages, tablets and
Swiss company Emmi has turned to packing innovation to overcome
stability issues with CoQ10 and other micronutrients. Its LactoTab
performance drink based on milk serum has CoQ10, vitamins and minerals
contained within a tablet sealed in the lid of the bottle.
This protects the nutrients from degradation by light and oxygen,
since they are only mixed with the liquid just prior to consumption,
said the company.