Tesco to launch cholesterol-lowering range under own label

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Sterol, Tesco

The UK's biggest supermarket, Tesco, is introducing its own plant
sterol-containing dairy range next month, offering a cheaper
alternative to the leading cholesterol-lowering brands.

The move underlines the recent dynamism in this sector, with multinational brands such as Unilever, Danone and Coca-Cola all promoting products with added plant sterols as consumers increasingly opt for heart-healthy products.

Tesco currently offers all of the market-leading brands but says its own products will be 'very competitively priced'.

"We've had so much interest in cholesterol-lowering foods that we decided to launch our own range,"​ said a spokeswoman for the retailer.

The range will consist of a spread, yoghurt drink, yoghurt and milk containing the plant sterol and stanol combination Reducol, made by Canada-based Forbes Medi-Tech.

The new products have been developed for Tesco by dairy firm Fayrefield Foods, which joined up with Forbes at the end of last year.

Charles Butt, president and CEO of Forbes, noted that "unlike other brands, Tesco will be able to launch a wide range of cholesterol-lowering food products under a single brand name".

In the UK, half of the population is said to have high cholesterol levels, making this a key market for functional food manufacturers. Cholesterol remains the single biggest modifiable risk factor for coronary heart disease, which kills more than 120,000 people every year in the UK alone.

Furthermore, heart disease kills more people in lower income groups than high earners, suggesting that pricing will affect the sales of these products. Currently, a plant sterol-containing spread is some 40-70 greater for yearly consumption compared with a standard spread.

Tesco declined to reveal the price structure of the new products but Fayrefield marketing director Chris Swire said: "If we can launch products that are competitively priced, we will grow the market"​.

Fayrefield also has plans to add some more innovative cholesterol-lowering products, including a cheddar-style cheese containing Reducol, under its own brand, he told NutraIngredients.com.

Tesco already sells a cholesterol-lowering cheese-type product but this is made with wheatgerm oil. Fayrefield Foods has developed a milk-based cheese with added sterols.

"This is quite a groundbreaking product,"​ Swire added.

"Our strategy is to mix innovative products with advantageous prices. This will allow us to get the maximum range of products to consumers,"​ he said.

Reducol, derived from forestry byproducts, has an advantage over soya-derived sterols in that it is guaranteed GM-free.

Studies on the ingredient suggest that consuming the daily recommended amount of Reducol, on top of a healthy diet, can help lower cholesterol by up to 24 per cent.

Food industry executives polled by Reuters Business Insight last year predicted that by 2009, cholesterol-lowering foods will be the most profitable health food, far ahead of recently trendy products such as low-carb foods.

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