Forbes Medi-Tech will be hoping its latest venture with Fiave will open other European brand-holders to its ingredient that is clinically proven to help consumers lower their cholesterol by up to 24 per cent. Health claims are permitted in most European markets stating as much. High Fiave Fiave has backed the launch with significant capital investment that includes a new plant and technology to support a range of Reducol-containing products, Forbes Medi-Tech said in a statement. Fiave would look to expand into other markets, it said. "We are committed to building a futuristic dairy specialised in functional food with applications in a variety of products such as yoghurt and Italian cheeses," said Giorgio Gosetti, general manager of Fiave. "Combining Reducol and our premium products will provide consumers with both great tasting products and unique health benefits." The first Fiave/Reducol product is a premium yoghurt drink that has gained distribution in mainstream Italian retailers. "Fiave's history of producing some of Italy's finest dairy products, combined with their existing distribution channels, makes them an ideal partner to help us continue to build the Reducol brand," said Charles Butt, president and CEO of Forbes Medi-Tech. "Our strength in customer service and product development culminating in this product launch, is a clear example of our ability to meet the needs of consumers in all categories, including the growing functional foods products marketplace." Reducol roll call Vancouver-based Forbes Medi-Tech has increased the frequency of its product partnerships since debuting in Europe in 2005 in a Finnish private label yoghurt, but is yet to turn a profit in more than 10 years in business. In 2006 it established a 51-49 per cent joint venture with UK-based private label food manufacturer Fayrefield to service the needs of its private label customers. "With multiple product launches and new market opportunities in continental Europe, the new venture is well positioned to reach retailers looking for healthier alternatives to existing branded products," Butt said at the time. Niche work However, despite a European sterol/stanol foods market estimated to be worth more than €600m, most private label offerings have sold only at niche level often despite severe price discounting. The market is dominated by Raisio-owned Benecol, Unilever's Flora pro.activ, French giant Danone, Swiss dairy Emmi as well as Valio, the Finnish dairy. Private label under-performers include a poorly marketed Tesco private-label range in the UK that includes a yoghurt, a one-shot drink, a margarine and a one-litre drinking milk. Similar ranges at retailers Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, Modelo Continente in Poretugal and Carrefour in France have achieved similar niche-level sales. Other Reducol-fortified products include a cheese in the UK (under Fayrefield's own brand), a chewing gum in Finland, a milk drink in Taiwan and the yoghurt product in Finland under the Pirkka brand, a private label of the retailer Kesko that represented Reducol's first foray into the European market in 2005. Kesko subsequently launched a Reducol-imbued bread in 2007.