Vancouver, British Columbia - February 26, 2001 - Forbes Medi-Tech Inc. (TSE:FMI and NASDAQ:FMTI), currently in active discussions with several major food manufacturers regarding the commercialization of its proprietary cholesterol-lowering food ingredients, has been approached by Novartis Consumer Health to help them find a buyer for the Take Heart™ line of food products enriched with Forbes' Reducol™. This follows the decision by Novartis and The Quaker Oats Company to dissolve the Altus Food Company. Altus had originally been set up by Novartis and Quaker Oats as a joint venture to develop functional food products.
While the operations of Altus have ceased, the two companies are reviewing the most appropriate options to continue the brand. Take Heart™ was test marketed in upstate New York in the latter half of 2001. This test market was completed at the end of the fourth quarter. During the test market, Quaker was acquired by PepsiCo Inc.
"The decision to dissolve the Altus Food Company had more to do with the acquisition of Quaker by PepsiCo and Novartis refocusing its businesses than it had with the Take Heart™ line of products themselves," stated Charles Butt, President of Forbes. "In fact, sales of Take Heart™ products during the test launch in upstate New York last fall were reported to be extremely positive and the products were well received by consumers. This decision obviously ties in with Novartis' recent announcement to divest their health and functional food business in order to focus exclusively on the more familiar core pharmaceutical and healthcare business."
Forbes is currently in active discussions with several other major food and dietary supplement manufacturers interested in launching their own line of cholesterol-lowering products using Forbes' proprietary ingredients. Forbes has offered to introduce the possibility of a Take Heart™ acquisition into these discussions where appropriate. "As we were not clear about the direction PepsiCo and Quaker were going to take regarding the expansion of the functional food area, sales of Reducol™ to Altus represented a small percentage of our 2002 budgeted tonnage. We anticipate that the finalization of new food contracts, which are presently under negotiation, will make up for any shortfall," stated Butt.
Reducol™ is one of Forbes' proprietary cholesterol-lowering compositions of non-genetically modified plant sterols/stanols derived from coniferous trees. Forbes licensed the composition to Novartis in 1999 and recently announced its intention to repurchase the worldwide rights to Reducol™ for consumer products. Novartis Nutrition AG, an affiliate of Novartis, has an exclusive option for the worldwide royalty-bearing license to use Reducol™ in medical foods.
Forbes Medi-Tech Inc. is a diversified health sciences company dedicated to the research, development and commercialization of innovative nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products derived from nature. By extracting plant sterols from wood pulping by-products, Forbes is developing cholesterol-lowering agents to be used both as functional food ingredients and pharmaceutical therapeutics in the battle against heart disease. Forbes is also developing innovative fermentation technology that converts plant sterols into pharmaceutical fine chemicals, essential in the production of various pharmaceutical steroids such as contraceptive agents and anti-inflammatories. Phytrol™ is a registered trademark of Forbes Medi-Tech Inc.