The new report, "Strategic Analysis of the European Phytosterols Market", valued the European market at €m ($184.6m) in 2005, and estimates this to reach €m ($395.2m) in 2012, an increase of 114 per cent.
The top three players in Europe are currently Cognis, ADM and Raisio (Raisio's plant stanols are included for the purpose of market analysis), controlling 79 per cent of market share revenue between them, with the other 22 companies active in the European phytosterol market controlling the other 21 per cent.
The F&S report states that 82.2 per cent of the applications are in functional foods and beverages, with the remaining 17.8 per cent used in dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
"The growing trend towards fortification of foods with vitamins, folate, minerals and herbal extracts has helped to create a more conducive environment for the incorporation of phytosterols in foods and beverages," explained Frost and Sullivan Research analyst Kaye Cheung.
"Phytosterols are now incorporated into a range of foods and beverages such as yoghurts, milk, sausages, cold cuts, bakery products, spicy sauces, margarines and spreads," she said.
The number of new products enriched with phytosterols, has been growing since 2000. These launches have also been boosted by regulatlry approvals in the EU and US for cholesterol-lowering health claims for the phytosterols.
"However, consumers are often overwhelmed and confused with the flood of information related to the importance of various nutrients in the diet and are consequently unable to distinguish fact from marketing hype.
Shifting consumer attitudes from awareness to understanding to overall acceptance will be a major area of focus for phytosterol ingredients manufacturers across the globe," said Cheung.
This, said Cheung, means improving consumer education, especially for the young. "Cholesterol is not a visible problem to many young people," she said.
Competition from Asian countries offering cheap ingredients should also be monitored, said the report, with joint ventures recommended as a way of maintaining market share.
The market will also be helped by a recent green-light from the EC Commission for their use in dietary supplements and rye breads, a move which opens up new product category applications.
This move came about after a communication from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) that revealed some supplements containing free plant sterols were available in the UK prior to January 1997, which meant that they were not considered a 'novel food' under European legislation.
As a result of this, Cognis has said it is planning to build the sterol supplement market in Europe with its Vegapure FTE free plant sterols. It has already developed a chewable tablet form with binders and additives that are said to ensure the active sterols are broken down and dispersed in the intestinal system for optimal LDL 'bad' cholesterol-lowering effect.
In the US, where the supplements market is more developed than the functional foods market, plant sterols supplements are already successful.