The firm said it has signed a brand partnership agreement with RDA Organic, which will see the apple-based ingredient rolled-out in UK and then Europe. This move taps into an increasing market for drinks which have an added health benefit. Provexis launched its tomato-based Sirco drink in UK supermarkets Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury's in January 2006, and reported sales of the first three months of £140,000 (c €205,000). According to a report by drinks company Britivic and market researcher Nielsen, the market for functional drinks enjoyed value growth at 18 per cent in 2006. The report added that consumers were shunning processed drinks in favour of pure and natural drinks. Well-being drinks, those which offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition, is the third fastest growing drinks category and has now reached £841m in value. According to Coressence, tests have shown Evesse has a positive effect on peripheral vascular compliance, which is a tendency for arteries to become less stiff. The stiffness of arteries is directly related to age - or what chief executive Richard Wood calls "vascular age." Wood said: "I think there will be a new phrase in functional foods - vascular age. "It is a simple concept that as arteries become old they become stiff. Vascular age can be measured quite simply with a finger tip test. It is something easy to understand. It could be done like a cholesterol test." The benefits associated with apples have been gaining more and more scientific backing. Apple consumption has been linked with cutting asthma in children, while another study has suggested the flavonoid quercetin found in apples may help reduce upper respiratory tract infection. Flavanols are potent antioxidants that scavenge free radicals in the body. They have been linked to a range of cardiovascular benefits, including reduced artery hardening and reducing blood pressure. Evesse juice will be specifically marketed at people who sit at their desk all day who have some difficulties with vascular health, Wood said. Wood explained: "The flavanol monomers in Evesse beneficially enhance nitric oxide synthase which is crucial for the maintenance of a relatively young vascular age. "Maintaining vascular compliance helps avoid the development of endothelial dysfunction as people age. Endothelial dysfunction, is a prognostically relevant key event in the development of atherosclerosis (cardiovascular disease)." Cardiovascular health is an increasing topic of concern, and cardiovascular disease causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe, and is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion ($202 billion) per year. According to the American Heart Association, 34.2 percent of Americans (70.1 million people) suffered from some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2002.