Cargill has joined forces with one of the country's largest grocery stores to develop and launch a range of fat-free milk containing branded Corowise plant sterols across the US - a range that is claimed to be the first of its kind.
According to the company, the plant sterol ingredient - which is part of its Active Lifestyle milk range - are clinically proven to lower cholesterol.
This use of plant sterols in a mainstream food product is bolstered by the US Food & Drug Administration's recognition that two eight-ounce servings of the milk, when consumed with meals, provides the minimum daily amount of plant sterols - as long as it is taken as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
This is the latest in a string of products in which Cargill has used its plant sterol ingredient.
"Corowise naturally sourced cholesterol reducer plant sterols can now be found in a growing list of leading products, including muffin tops, orange juice, cereal, bars, bread, cheese and rice milk" said Pam Stauffer, marketing programs manager at Cargill.
Plant sterols hit mainstream via margerine and spreads in particular. But Cargill is looking to find other avenues to bring the ingredient to consumers.
In keeping with its 'healthy' mission, Cargill has a mission statement to help its customers, such as Kroger, stay abreast in the booming health and wellness market by building awareness of products containing the CoroWise plant steroids.
"Cargill conducts outreach to consumers and healthcare professionals to communicate the health benefits of plant sterols and to make people aware of the consumer products that contain them," said Stauffer.
The phytosterol category is set to see rapid growth. Frost & Sullivan has estimated the United States phytosterol market to grow to $196.7m by 2012, doubling from $103.9m in 2005.
Phytosterols have the added boost of holding a US Food & Drug Administration approved health claim for foods containing this ingredient:
"Foods or beverages containing at least 0.4 grams per serving of plant sterols, eaten twice a day with meals for a daily intake of at least 0.8 grams, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
The company claims Corowise plant sterols have been clinically shown to lower cholesterol. Cargill says they can be added to foods and beverages without increasing calories or affecting flavour or texture, making it easy for people to add plant sterols into their daily diets and help reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol levels.