Benecol debuts in Colombia

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags South america North america

Raisio has launched its cholesterol-lowering Benecol products into its fourth south American market, Columbia, as the result of a deal inked with Columbian dairy, Colanta.

Cholesterol-lowering foods have for some years registered relatively stagnant sales in North America as they have struggled to compete with statin blockbuster drugs, but Raisio communications manager, Heidi Hirvonen, said its south American markets had demonstrated strong growth, although she had no specific figures to hand.

“We have been there for several years and are tapping into a local population that is increasingly interested in lowering their cholesterol,” ​she said. “There is however a lot more education work that needs to go on and we are engaged in that with our local partners.”

Finnish-based Raisio’s plant stanol-based Benecol products are present in Chile and Argentina, with Ecuador becoming the third country to feature its products in 2008.

The new deal sees Benecol yogurts, fresh cheese, cream cheese and milk launched in a co-branding arrangement, with mainstream supermarket distribution. Benecol’s marquee margarine is not being launched at this stage.

Muscle to succeed

Hirvonen said Colanta had the muscle to ensure widespread distribution as it was a major dairy player with annual sales of about $750m.

Raisio chief executive officer, Matti Rihko said further expansion into latin America was likely, as “South America [was] an interesting opportunity for Benecol products."

Benecol has expanded into new regions in the past couple of years with deals being signed with local players in India, Indonesia and Thailand. It sells products in 30 countries.

Sales in European markets have been steady if not excellent, with the company rejigging its marketing campaigns in some markets to target new consumers and consolidate its healthy positioning.

But its position there has been bolstered by the announcement this month that European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) positive health claim opinions relating to plant stanols and sterols have been validated this month.

Benecol UK licensee, McNeil Nutritionals’ marketing manager of Benecol, Europe, Esther N.M. van Onselen, told NutraIngredients at the time the approval was significant.

“We should be able to, for the first time, link cholesterol-lowering and cardiovascular disease, which is a big step forward,” ​she said.

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