Cholesterol-lowering OJ launched in Europe

PepsiCo has launched Europe's first non-dairy, plant sterol/stanol-fortified beverage in the UK under its Tropicana brand. The orange juice is fortified with Benecol's stanol ingredient and is part of the functional Tropicana Essentials range that includes calcium, multivitamin and fibre-enhanced juices.

Available in one-litre cartons, Tropicana Essentials with Benecol retails for $4.50 and targets professional, health-conscious consumers and over-45s.

"Two out of three consumers in the UK have raised cholesterol so this is potentially a huge target audience for us," Tropicana UK marketing director Will Ghali told FF&N.

Tropicana's move comes as Coca Cola awaits an EU Novel Foods verdict for "drinks consisting of juice and nectars with added plant sterols." The sterol in question is supplied by Cargill, whose CoroWise sterol ingredient was the first to be used in an orange juice when Coca Cola launched Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise in the US in late 2003. Coke is hoping for a favourable opinion this year.

Benecol has also struck a deal with German mineral water and fruit juice maker Rhoen Sprudel, which will see apple and orange flavoured spring waters with added Benecol stanols on German shelves in March.

Other players to leap into the estimated $600 million European sterol/stanol-based food market include the UK's biggest retailer Tesco, with an own-label range of spreads, yoghurts and one-shot drinks fortified with Canadian biotech firm Forbes MediTech's stanol/sterol ingredient.

Finnish food company Fazer has also received Novel Foods approval for a sterol-fortified rye bread.

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