The company said that the alliance will create: "an efficient, integrated supply chain based on Bunge's raw material supply, P&G's marketing and sales expertise and Peter Cremer's manufacturing capabilities".
Phytosterols are found naturally in plants, fruits and vegetables and according to Bunge demand for the products has increased since sterol enhanced foods received a health claim from the FDA.
The companies estimate that by 2008, global demand for phytosterols will top 10,000 tons, a figure that represents a potential market value of between $200 and $250 million. In 1999, demand was around 4,000 tons.
"This alliance builds a stronger connection to food processors and creates a channel to new markets," said Marc Samson, director of business development and technology for Bunge.
Phytosterols are most commonly derived from deodorizer distillate, a byproduct of vegetable oil refining. As a leading oilseed processor, Bunge is one of the largest suppliers of this material. The company will make available to the alliance the deodorizer distillate created by its global oilseed processing operations, which handle soybeans, rapeseed, sunflower and other seeds.
Manufacturing will be overseen by oleochemical supplier Peter Cremer North America. P&G Food Ingredients will serve as primary marketer of the product line, which will include sterol esters, free sterols and spray-dried esters.
Bunge has a 50 percent stake in the alliance.
The continued introduction of sterol-enhanced food products is expected to drive further growth in the phytosterol market. Today, the use of sterols in vegetable oils, margarines and spreads, yogurt, snack bars, salad dressings and health drinks has received GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the FDA. In the US, food products that contain at least 0.65 grams of sterol esters or 0.40 grams of free sterols per serving can include on their packaging an FDA health claim stating that the consumption of phytosterols may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.