Oat science leads to new functional foods

Related tags Oat Wheat Uk

Dutch retailer Albert Heijn is launching a bread carrying a
cholesterol-lowering health claim based on its oat beta-glucan
content, writes Dominique Patton.

The product has been developed with CreaNutrition, a subsidiary of Swedish Oat Fiber, which makes the oat bran ingredient OatWell.

The firm has completed 13 clinical trials on the ingredient in different food matrixes and has been the key driver of recent approval for a cholesterol-lowering claim from voluntary health claims bodies in the UK and Sweden.

Albert Heijn will launch the bread under its Vitaalbrood brand, adding it to the inulin-fortified bread, Vitaalbrood Flora, introduced in 2003. It claims to have a proven effect on LDL cholesterol reduction, therefore reducing risk of heart disease.

Ruedi Duess, managing director of CreaNutrition​, told NutraIngredients.com that the recent health claim approval in the UK had been influential on the new Dutch product. It will also play a key role in new products expected this year.

"There are new products launching rather soon in the UK too,"​ he said. These could be breads or other applications such as cereals, biscuits or liquid products, all previously tested by the firm.

Duess noted that the UK is ,"the hot market for us right now"​. It benefits from good consumer awareness of oats and their association with health. New data from market research firm TNS shows a strong rise in porridge sales in the UK over 2004.

CreaNutrition worked with a partner company to develop the dossier for a product specific health claim required by Dutch food authorities. Bakery ingredients firm Puratos also worked on the functional properties of the bread. Adding oat fibres to bread changes the water absorption and gas retention, altering the food's structure.

Functional foods designed to lower cholesterol are gaining significant momentum in Europe, with regulators approving the addition of plant sterols to a number of new food applications last year.

But while the US Food and Drug Administration first permitted a cholesterol-lowering claim for oats in 1998, there are few oat-based foods in Europe marketing this health benefit.

Other bakers promoting cholesterol-lowering products include the UK's Allied Bakeries which launched its Cholessterol bread under the Burgen brand in 2003. It contains soy protein but has generated disappointing income.

Albert Heijn's new product will be available from 14 June and retails at €1.59 for a 400g loaf.

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