The UK bread industry is the second largest in the food sector, worth more than £3 billion. Sales of soymilk have soared in the UK in recent years thanks to its growing health image and the booming functional beverages market. But it has taken longer for the traditional bread industry to add 'functional' products to the shelves.
Yet figures show that the British are consuming more breads with added fibre in an attempt to boost their health. After a decline in bread sales before the 1980s, sales began to increase again in the 1990s thanks to increased consumer awareness of the health benefits of bread and the launch of new varieties on the British market, according to the Federation of Bakers. Sales of wholemeal bread increased dramatically between 1975 and 1985 due to an increased awareness of the benefits of fibre in the diet and the availability of a lighter more palatable wholemeal bread.
The new bread, under Allied's Burgen range, contains a patented soy composition called Abacor made by Norwegian firm Nutri Pharma. It is a blend of soy protein, fibre and phospholipids, shown to be more than twice as effective at lowering cholesterol than the the best commercially available soy protein, according to its manufacturer.
The launch is the culmination of several years of development activitybetween Nutri Pharma and Allied Bakeries, solving the problems associated with delivering a high level of Abacor, while maintaining the structure and flavour of a premium sliced loaf.
In the UK, such products are also boosted by a health claim approved by the voluntary Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI) in 2002, which allows manufacturers to indicate the nutritional value of the soy protein ingredient.
Nutri Pharma, founded in 1993, was listed on the Oslo Stock exchange in May 2000, allowing it to invest more than $50 million in the business over the last four years. Much of this has been in R&D and securing its intellectual property - it claims its patent portfolio is probably the most comprehensive in the soy industry, covering more than 1000 patent claims for various composition, process and methods of use patents.
The company, until recently focused on R&D, is now seekingindustrial partners in the food and pharma sectors to commercialise its patented technologies.
The Cholessterol bread is one of three new Burgen products set to launch in the UK over the next few weeks. In Australia, the Burgen brand includes a rye variety for digestive balance, Burgen Soy-Lin for women's wellbeing and an oatbran and honey variety for heart health.
Allied Bakeries holds around a third of the UK bread market, which is forecast to rise by just over 4.5 per cent between 2001and 2005, reaching £2.97 billion.