Mintel's Global New Products Database lists a total of 123 cholesterol-lowering dairy products in Europe between 1998 and 2006. The peak year was 2004 when there were 38, followed by 26 last year.
A total of 13 healthcare (dietary supplements) products are listed in Europe over this period.
In the US, on the other hand, Mintel counted just 23 cholesterol-lowering new dairy products between 1998 and 2006, and 18 healthcare (dietary supplement) entries.
Europe also looks to have been more adventurous in venturing out of dairy and into different foods, with occasional cholesterol-lowering fruit and vegetable, meal and meal center, processed fish, meat and egg, side dish and snack product launches.
No corresponding products are listed as having launched in the US, however both markets showed isolated launches in beverages, breakfast cereals and sauces and seasonings.
The US data showed two bakery product launches in the category in 2006 to date - a first for both markets. It remains to be seen whether Europe will follow suit and whether more will follow in the US over the next 10 months.
Although Mintel's data does not indicate the precise ingredients responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect, plant sterols and stanols (and sterol and stanol esters) have proved popular with formulators. Dairy products such as margarine, yoghurt and milk have proved popular carriers for these.
Market researchers place a great deal of emphasis on convenience as an effective means of encouraging consumers to eat more healthily. It is much easier to persuade a consumer to replace something they already eat regularly, such as margarine, with a healthier alternative, than to ask them to break a habit altogether or form a new one.
The pattern of launches also corresponds with an intensification of advice from health care practitioners that it is far better to lower cholesterol through dietary means than to resort to pharmaceutical drugs like statins, which have potentially serious side effects. According to the American Heart Association 37.7 million American adults have high cholesterol of 240mg/dL or above. In Europe, the percentage of the population with high blood pressure varies by country, from 45 percent in Sweden to 19 per cent in parts of Poland, according to the MONICA project (adults aged 35 to 64).
Data source: Mintel's Global New Products Database