A recent report by Business Communications Co. Inc. (BCC, Norwalk, Conn.) finds the market for all commercially used carotenoids at about $887 million. Furthermore, RGA-110R The Global Market for Carotenoids predicts the ingredient's market will grow at an average annual rate of 2.9%, to break the $1 billion barrier by 2009.

The report attributes the growth to the over-the-counter sector, which has become one of the fastest-growing outlets for the ingredients, due in large part to the antioxidative properties of carotenoids. The most important market is food, due to the widespread use as colorings. Supplement usage is second, with all other applications of fairly low importance. The increased competition from Asia is producing price pressures and will serve to moderate growth.

In terms of each segment of the market, beta-carotene accounted for $242 million in 2004, a $30 million increase since 1999, but growth is expected to slow slightly, with 2009 sales estimated at $253 million. Taking the lead will be the $257 million for astaxanthin, which accounted for $234 million in 2004. Substantial competition over the last five years led its market to grow by less than $20 million. Furthermore, canthaxanthin has stolen some of its thunder for fish pigmentation, taking some of astaxanthin's market.

The marketing star of the sector has been lutein, largely thanks to its assistance in reducing age-related macular degeneration disease. As a result, its market more than doubled--from $64 million in 1999 to $139 million in 2004. The strong growth is expected to continue, as the lutein market is expected to grow 6.1% through 2009, when it will approach $187 million.