CoQ10 set to become big anti-aging ingredient

By Jess Halliday and Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Skin care Supply and demand Mintel

European cosmetic makers have been quick to catch on to the
promises made by 'wonder ingredient' CoQ10 with a throng of
products hitting the market in the last five years, according to
Mintel. Nonetheless, supply issues and high prices have made
sourcing the ingredient to be a challenge.

According to Mintel's database, the peak year was 2000, with 60 products launched. In 2004 there were 42, but things are on the up again with 51 products launched so far this year.

The apparent slowing of launches may not indicate a drop off in the ingredient's popularity. In fact, reports of high demand for CoQ10 containing supplements suggest that demand is higher than ever.

Rather, the figures are likely due to supply issues that have beset the industry over the past two years, an issue that seems to now be resolving itself as more supplies come on line.

The vast majority of the world's CoQ10 is produced by four manufacturers in Japan, using a difficult and costly process (in most cases fermentation but organic synthesis is also possible). Until 2002, it was regulated as a pharmaceutical in Japan. But since its deregulation the home market has exploded, meaning that reduced stocks are available for international market.

Mintel's database contains 25 new supplement entries in Japan since 2002, 2004 being the most prolific year with 11 new launches recorded. Skin care products in Japan were rather slower in coming to market: In 2004, Mintel reports just three new entries but in 2005 to date there have been 19.

The antioxidant co-enzyme, which stimulates other enzymes into action, occurs naturally in the human body but levels decrease with age. Amongst a plethora of purported health benefits, it is believed to help prevent damage to collagen and elastin production, an action that has made it popular in anti-ageing formulations.

However, the demand in the Unites States is thought to be partly due to widespread publicity of a scientific study indicating that it may be of benefit to Parkinson's disease patients.

In the European market, it appears that use of CoQ10 is far more heavily weighted towards skin care and cosmetics products than dietary supplements, with just 20 supplements entries in Mintel's database since 2000 compared to 94 skin care entries.

While several countries, including Spain, Italy, and Greece, have dipped a toe in the water with one supplement entry alongside a slate of skin care products, only in the UK and Germany are the two uses given almost equal weight - 7 supplements, 7 skin care in UK; 7 supplements, 10 skin care in Germany.

Conservative estimates put worldwide sales of CoQ10 at around $350 million in 2004 - and it is believed they could have been considerably more if not stemmed by availability issues.

A further consequence of the supply issue is the soaring cost of CoQ10. There are reports that on-the-spot prices have reached as high as $5000 per kilo in recent months.

This means that products containing CoQ10 - or certainly those that base their marketing around its cachet - come at a premium. In skin care, a category more associated with prestige, the priciest CoQ10-containing entry in the US was Peter Thomas' Power Rescue Facial Firming Lift at $150.

Last month an end appeared to be in sight to the supply problems, after Frontier Science signed a deal with Taiwan's PharmaEssentia to supply CoQ10 on a global basis - a move that the US company said made it the world's fifth supplier with multi-ton capacity.

Japan's Kaneka also expects its $80 million factory in Pasadena, Texas to be completed by Spring 2006, and is setting up a US subsidiary to tap into demand from the US.

But whether this ease-up will immediately translate into cheaper prices, either of the raw material or for the end consumer, is by no means certain.

Frontier's Bert Israelsen said that while prices are unlikely to increase further, until there is real stability they will not swing far the other way.

Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database.

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