Microalgal Carotenoids: A Review of Production, Current Markets, Regulations, and Future Direction

Mar Drugs. 2019 Nov 13;17(11):640. doi: 10.3390/md17110640.


Microalgae produce a variety of compounds that are beneficial to human and animal health. Among these compounds are carotenoids, which are microalgal pigments with unique antioxidant and coloring properties. The objective of this review is to evaluate the potential of using microalgae as a commercial feedstock for carotenoid production. While microalgae can produce some of the highest concentrations of carotenoids (especially astaxanthin) in living organisms, there are challenges associated with the mass production of microalgae and downstream processing of carotenoids. This review discusses the synthesis of carotenoids within microalgae, their physiological role, large-scale cultivation of microalgae, up- and down-stream processing, commercial applications, natural versus synthetic carotenoids, and opportunities and challenges facing the carotenoid markets. We emphasize legal aspects and regulatory challenges associated with the commercial production of microalgae-based carotenoids for food/feed, nutraceutical and cosmetic industry in Europe, the USA, the People's Republic of China, and Japan. This review provides tools and a broad overview of the regulatory processes of carotenoid production from microalgae and other novel feedstocks.

Keywords: antioxidants; carotenoids; feedstock; legislation; mass production of microalgae; microalgae; regulations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / isolation & purification
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Carotenoids / isolation & purification
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Coloring Agents / isolation & purification
  • Coloring Agents / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Microalgae / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Coloring Agents
  • Carotenoids