As heart disease prevention becomes a weighty issue in the developed world, and the trend to fortify foods rises, it is estimated the phytosterol market in the United States will nearly double by 2012.
Other water soluble phytosterols have been released in the past for use in a variety of functional foods and beverages, but market opportunity would indicate there is room for more growth.
Heart diseases are blamed for approximately 50 percent of all deaths in the industrialized world, a threat which is driving heart healthy ingredient sales. Analyst Frost & Sullivan valued the US phytosterol market at $103.9m in 2005 and estimated it will reach $196.7m in 2012.
Frost & Sullivan tracked a rise in the number of new products containing phytosterols since 2000. The nutrients can now be found in foods and beverages such as yogurt, milk, sausages, cold cuts, bakery products, spicy sauces, margarines and spreads.
The Southern Californian company's new ingredient is in powder form, for water-soluble applications and Blue California says its micro-encapsulation technology allows for a wide range of opportunities for its customers in the beverage, dietary supplement and food industries.
"A complete bioavailability study to determine the degree of absorption and the effect on cholesterol from dietary supplementation with this new ingredient is being considered at this time," said Blue California's executive vice president, Cecilia McCollum.
According to the company, the rate of vegetable consumption in the US is not ideal for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and plant sterols are difficult to absorb, thus exacerbating this dietary deficiency.
Studies have shown plant sterols can help reduce cholesterol levels.
Blue California cites a 2004 study from Washington University in St. Louis which found phytosterols effectively reduce LDL-cholesterol when given as supplements, and that the smaller amounts in natural foods also appear to be important.
It added that the study found that since phytosterols have very low systemic absorption and are already present in healthy diets, increasing the intake of phytosterols may be a practical way to reduce coronary heart disease with minimum risk.