In 2002, P&G Food Ingredients division was born, nestled within P&G Chemicals, to focus new efforts on ingredients with healthy benefits. From the beginning, cholesterol-lowering sterols were a priority. The company developed Nutraphyl-brand phytosterols, and in 2006, successfully shepherded them through the European Union novel-food approval process for use in margarine, fermented dairy, dressing, spicy sauces, milk products and soy drinks.

Facing stiff competition from other sterol products, the company is banking on the idea that as consumers become more aware of the health benefits of this and other functional ingredients, they will become more popular.

"We are looking at a variety of ingredients that would benefit food companies," says Samir Verma, P&G Food Ingredients marketing and sales manager. "We're committed to providing a full line of functional foods to help our customers deliver healthier choices for healthy lives. We currently offer Capriphyl MCTs, Nutraphyl phytosterols and Superol glycerin, and Olean brand olestra. We've developed proprietary Nutraphyl photosterol esters that can be incorporated into food products in smaller doses with the same efficacy.

"Capriphyl is currently marketed in Europe," Verma says. "We are exploring geographic expansion but no decisions have been made.

As for omega-3s, Verma says, "The public is beginning to better understand the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. The challenge is to incorporate omega-3s without affecting the product's taste profile. We feel our expertise in lipid technology will have an impact on the omega-3 market. We are beginning to sample potential customers with a concentrated omega-3 oil.

"Glycerin is another versatile ingredient used in many food products as a humectant and natural sweetener. It's also a key component of gel caps. The market dynamics have resulted in increased production resulting in glycerin being a cost-effective ingredient for food companies to use."

The company continues to believe in the long-range benefits and potential of its olestra product, Olean. "Finding healthy solutions to the growing obesity epidemic is becoming more and more important to Americans. P&G Food Ingredients offers a way to help reduce trans and saturated fats with Olean," Verma says. The product currently is used exclusively in savoury snack products.

As the number of functional ingredients continues to increase exponentially, many industry observers think that consumer education is vital to the success of any particular ingredient. However, Verma addresses the issue with the confidence born of the company's reputation and track record as a behemoth in the world of food. "We've been in the food business since the early 1900s," he says, "and are committed to innovation. P&G Food Ingredients is tapping into our company's expertise and capabilities to take this corporate technology and expand it into customer brands. We're increasing our portfolio of healthy solutions to help improve the lives of the world's consumers."

Health-care costs continue to rise and the link of 'how we eat' is gaining broad visibility. Functional foods can help
The long-term success of functional foods will depend on a broad approach, he said. "Functional foods are not a fad. There is strong correlation between how we eat and the problems faced by millions — heart disease, obesity and high cholesterol. Health-care costs continue to rise and the link of 'how we eat' is gaining broad visibility. Functional foods can help.

"However, adding an ingredient and simply disclosing it on the package is not enough," he says. "Successful products will have broader appeal with great taste, unique and convenient packaging, and a holistic approach that utilizes functional ingredients as part of a clear message. 2007 presents tremendous opportunity for functional foods. The public concern over health issues does not appear to be diminishing but increasing, and P&G Food Ingredients is ready to offer our customers the healthy solutions their audience is looking for."