Finnish phytosterol success leads to Pirkka extension

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sterol Kesko food

Products containing Forbes Medi-Tech's Reducol plant sterols have
proved popular in Finnish supermarket Kesko - so much so that it is
expanding its Pirkko range to include a non-dairy margarine.

The two original Pirkka yoghurts - buckthorn and raspberry flavours - were first introduced to stores in May 2005. Now the company is adding two new flavours, plain (natural) and cranberry, as well as a lactose-free margarine.

Although a company executive was not available to answer NutraIngredient's enquiry about sales volumes, success that merits investing in more products is particularly significant in the Finnish market because it is also the homeland of Raisio, the company that owns the Benecol brand of products containing plant stanols and which has a 10-year head start in the category.

The Pirkka spread will be the first time Reducol has been used in a non-dairy margarine. Jukka Kiovunen, purchasing director for Kesko Food, explained the decision as "an effort to provide the best products possible for the Finnish population where there is a high level of lactose intolerance".

Kesko's Pirkka has a premium positioning on the Finnish market - an approach that differs from that of UK retailer Tesco, whose Reducol-containing products carry a cheaper price tag than branded products such as Benecol and Flora ProActiv.

Tesco's aim is to make cholesterol-lowering foods available to people with lower incomes, who may have a higher risk of heart disease due to social factors.

Benecol was first launched in Finland 11 years ago, and is now available in more than 30 countries worldwide, through 14 licensees.

Frost and Sullivan estimates the European phytosterols/stanols market to be worth around $184m (c €146m), and expects it to increase by 114 per cent until 2012, to be worth $395.3m (c €313m). Key drivers are the increasing scientific data supporting their use, increased interest in lowering cholesterol through diet rather than drugs, and government programmes aimed at raising cholesterol awareness.

There are currently more than 20 sterol suppliers active in the market.

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