Natural Foods Merchandiser

Heart health from water

As baby boomers make up an increasing segment of naturals shoppers, they're probably looking for ways to reduce high cholesterol naturally. Soon they may have another tool. German beverage manufacturer Rhoen Sprudel is launching the first nondairy drink with Benecol, the cholesterol-lowering ingredient found in margarine-like spreads. The drink is a mineral water enhanced with fruit flavors, and will lower a consumer's total cholesterol up to 10 percent and LDL by 15 percent after drinking a 33 ml bottle every day for two weeks, according to Rhoen Sprudel.

While the Benecol water is being launched only in Germany for the time being, it may face competition from Minute Maid's Corowise product if it becomes available in the United States. "Unlike Benecol, Minute Maid's Corowise orange juice contains plant sterols," said Anniina Honkanen, product manager at Raisio Life Sciences, the Finnish company that manufactures Benecol. "All Benecol products contain plant stanol ester as the active cholesterol-lowering ingredient." Esterified stanols and sterols are more soluble in fatty foods.

Honkanen predicts big things for the beverage. "We expect the Benecol drink to be the next success story among functional foods." Will it show up in the United States? "Unfortunately, we can't comment on specific future launches," says Honkanen. But, she hints, "We would be very glad to see various kinds of Benecol products launched around the world and we are continuously working for it."

Even as this product goes to market, Raisio scientists are tackling another challenge. "At the moment, it is not possible to produce completely clear drinks with the Benecol ingredient. Mixing the ingredient to a drink causes some cloudiness, which is not favorable to plain water," Honkanen said.

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