Sterol approvals fire up European market

The $75 million European plant sterols market is set to explode following several ingredient approvals from the European Commission (EC) and an expansion of food categories that can carry the cholesterol-lowering ingredient.

Illinois-based ADM and Finnish ingredients developers Teriaka and Pharmaconsult have all had ingredients and technologies approved under Europe?s difficult novel foods legislation that can leave applicants waiting years for a decision. Canadian ingredients maker Forbes Medi-Tech is awaiting approval of its non-GMO Reducol ingredient in fruit- and milk-based drinks. Reducol could be a powerful card to play in GMO-wary Europe.

Food giant Unilever has approval to extend its Flora pro.activ sterol-fortified range of foods from spreads—where it is category leader in many European markets—to milk drinks and low-fat yoghurts. These products have gone on sale in the UK and similar launches in its other European markets should follow.

Reacting to the activity, the EC has issued plant sterol labelling requirements that will apply to both new market entrants and established products such as the Benecol line. Sterol-fortified foods must carry the words ?with added plant stanols/plant sterols? in the same field of vision as the product name, and the quantity per 100g or per 100ml must be in the ingredients list. Products must also carry a warning that stanols/sterols consumption should not exceed 3g per day and state: ?This product is intended exclusively for people who want to lower their blood cholesterol level.?

Teriaka?s Diminicol, approved for use in spreads, milk-based fruit drinks, yoghurt and cheese products, is the cheapest of the new ingredients as it is a natural sterol that does not undergo esterification. Pharmaconsult?s Multi-bene technology combines sterols with other nutrients. ADM has approval to use its sterols and sterol esters in salad dressings, yellow fat spreads, yoghurts, soy drinks, cheese products and milk products.

Finnish giant Valio has received a favourable opinion for sterol-enriched frankfurters and cold meats. Another Finnish company, Oy Karl Fazer Fazerintie, is seeking approval for sterol-enriched bakery products, grain-based snacks and gum arabic pastilles.

Market researcher Frost & Sullivan estimates the European plant sterols market will grow at 15 per cent annually until 2010.

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