Gerry: Well, surprisingly, spirulina is a mature product in the health food area, and the market has been relatively stable, I think over the last 10 years. However, over the last 2 years, we've seen actually a growth in demand for spirulina. And we have not been sure why until we started doing some more work with some of our Asian customers, and it turns out that because of the immune-enhancing properties of spirulina, there's a large consumption of spirulina in Asia, including China, because of the SARS outbreak.
Mike: Well that's interesting.
Gerry: And so people are recognizing that taking spirulina can keep you healthy.
Mike: Imagine that! Well, I should add, in my own experience, I think I've been sick only once in the last 7 years, and I don't do vaccinations or any of that. I rely exclusively on superfoods nutrition, which includes spirulina, and I'm sure the people in your company, Gerry, they take spirulina as well, right?
Gerry: Absolutely, as a matter of fact, we give out two bottles a month to our employees!
Gerry: Cyanotech, after it started up, actually we were founded in 1983, so we've been here over 21 years, but it wasn't until 1989 that we actually started producing tablets and started selling our spirulina through Nutrex. And so it was rather hard for our associates working here to take spirulina, but when we started producing our Nutrex products, we started giving out free bottles to the associates, and the amount of time spent off work for sicknesses declined greatly after it was widely available to everyone working here, and it declined so much that our health insurance went down.
Mike: Well now there's an interesting theme right there -- companies could be giving this to their employees and saving money and saving health care costs all at the same time.
Gerry: That's what we experienced.
Mike: Very interesting. I'd sure be interested to find out what would happen on a larger scale, if a Fortune 500 company were willing to take that as a case study.
Gerry: Yes, and actually we've got an interest in trying to do that with some large company with our Bioastin product as well, for carpal tunnel syndrome, or repetitive stress injuries, which is a very expensive item for large companies.
Mike: Oh, indeed, especially in the software and high-tech industries, sitting at a keyboard all day, typing away is not great for your wrists. What about vegetarians? I know a lot of vegetarians use spirulina religiously -- why are they doing that?
Gerry: Well, spirulina is certainly a good source of protein, it contains all the essential amino acids, it's also a very good source of vitamin B-12, something that is difficult for vegetarians to get from other sources. And certainly as with everyone, it's a great source of antioxidant carotenoid.
Mike: So, just back to that vitamin B-12, to let people know, that's more traditionally derived from animal proteins.
Gerry: That's correct.
Mike: And as a complete protein, spirulina beats beans or rice or other protein sources that don't have all the amino acids.
Gerry: That's correct.
Mike: I don't mean to be putting words in your mouth, Gerry, I'm just trying to explain to everyone why that's such a big deal.
Gerry: No, I appreciate your input.
Mike: Thanks. I've also been quite intrigued by the idea that ounce per ounce, spirulina's protein is 12 times more bioavailable than protein from animal sources.
Gerry: That's correct, yes. It really is a wonderful protein source.
Mike: So, any last words you'd like to share with our listeners here, Gerry?
Gerry: Well, I think the spirulina is really a superfood, as you mentioned, and as we learn more about it, even though it's an old product on the nutritional supplement market, we seem to be learning more and more about the health benefits and some of the subtleties like this, protection against illness and enhancing the immune system, and I think it's a product whose time will come again.
Mike: Demand is increasing over the last couple of years, you mentioned. The internet is helping to get the word out, the health benefits of this, and I'd like to add, I think this is absolutely fantastic preventive medicine.
Gerry: I agree, and the scientific community is learning more and more about it.
This article is part of an exclusive interview with Dr. Gerry Cysewski, CEO and founder of Cyanotech Corporation http://www.cyanotech.com, located in Kona, Hawaii. Cyanotech's spirulina and astaxanthin products are available in retail stores (look for products made with "Hawaiian spirulina") or through Nutrex-Hawaii at http://www.nutrex-hawaii.com.
The aerial photo on the left shows Cyanotech's farms. The dark green culture ponds contain spirulina, while the reddish ponds contain astaxanthin in various stages of growth. The dark land mass on the right is a lava field.
Editors note: Spirulina is one of the superfoods I consume on a daily basis. Due to my passion about superfoods nutrition, I traveled to Kona, Hawaii to conduct a series of interviews with Cyanotech personnel. To find all available articles on Cyanotech, just type "Cyanotech" in the search box below. New articles are being added regularly.