ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. -- The new niche of cholesterol-lowering foods expanded recently with the launch of three low-fat salad dressings in the Lipton Foods-owned Take Control line, based here, as well as three flavors of snack bars in the competing Benecol brand.
Lipton announced the launch of Take Control salad dressings Sept. 23, calling them the first reduced-fat salad dressings that help lower cholesterol. Fat content per serving is 4 grams for the Italian flavor, 6 grams for Blue Cheese and 8 grams for Ranch, according to David Blanchard, vice president of research and development for Lipton. Take Control has been shown to lower the undesirable cholesterol by about 10% in people who tested it. Suggested retail price is $3.79.
Benecol's new energy bars, which come in chocolate crisp, peanut crisp and wild strawberry flavors, will be shipped to supermarkets throughout this month. Each bar contains 3 to 4 grams of fat, according to Michelle Wang, public relations product director for Benecol products.
Benecol, made by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Fort Washington, Pa., also introduced four salad dressings in mid-July, and they have been meeting sales expectations, Wang said.
The salad dressings, in Ranch, French-Style, Thousand Island and Creamy Italian, contain a range of 10 to 13 grams of fat per serving. They have not been positioned as being low-fat, although the new, competing Take Control dressings are.
As functional foods, these products must be eaten regularly to show the expected medical benefit.
Wang said the Benecol product should be taken three times daily in order to lower so-called "bad" cholesterol, or LDL blood cholesterol, by about 14%, as shown in studies.
Both Benecol and Take Control introduced a refrigerated margarine or butter alternative spread in May, and both product lines use natural plant esters to block absorption of LDL cholesterol. Salad dressings followed, and now the energy bars
Lipton said two daily servings of either Take Control salad dressing or spread are recommended.
"The trade has been extremely receptive, and response from doctors and consumers has also been very positive," Benecol's Wang said.
Bill Bishop, president of Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill., observed that "a tremendous amount of real growth in the food business will come from functional foods. These are almost always niche products being sold through the mass-market system. So, they've got to have a different marketing, merchandising and profit structure.
"And, maybe even greater than that, when consumers think of foods with medical benefits, they do not automatically think of the supermarket. Supermarkets must audition very strongly to play that role," Bishop added.
Tops Friendly Markets, Buffalo, N.Y., for one, gave front-page display to Benecol in a recent Cooking School brochure that was mailed to customers.