The Japanese company has been producing CoQ10 - or Coenzyme Q10 - for around 25 years, and is already supplying it to the food and beverage industries in Japan. The firm now hopes to expand its reach into the US market, where the antioxidant is still primarily used in dietary supplements, although it has also started to creep into foods and drinks. Asahi Kasei has self-affirmed the GRAS status of its ingredient, following an analysis of safety and quality data by an independent panel of scientists. The firm said its CoQ10 is manufactured under pharmaceutical GMP conditions, is free of animal materials, and is also certified as Kosher. Benefits CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant, which 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). Market 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. Some two thirds of the US-sold CoQ10 is still thought to come from Japan. According to estimates by one US supplier of CoQ10 - ZMC - around 170m tons of the ingredient were sold in the US in 2007. Data from the market research firm IRI also points to a surge in demand, revealing that CoQ10 saw a 19 percent increase in dollar sales volume at retail level in the US, and a 9 percent increase in unit sales. As awareness of the ingredient increases, so too are the number of consumers actively seeking out CoQ10 supplements. Estimates suggest that currently around six million consumers in the US are supplementing an average of 82mg CoQ10 daily. CoQ10 in foods The antioxidant is also emerging as a functional ingredient in food and beverage products. According to data from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) six new energy drinks containing the antioxidant were launched in the US last year, and although the figure is still relatively low, it reveals a gradual but strong increase from previous years. In 2006, CoQ10 was used in four new food and beverage products, in 2005 it appeared in two and in 2004 it was used in only one new product. Globally, there were 35 overall launches of foods and beverages containing CoQ10 in 2007. This was a slight dip from 43 products in 2006, but still up on 18 launches in 2004 and 23 in 2005.