The crackers, from the firm’s Heart to Heart line, are marketed as the “fist nationally distributed crackers to provide more for your heart”. As well as plant sterols, they contain whole grains, antioxidants and low sodium.
Plant sterols, which are natural extracts found in a variety of plants, are becoming increasingly popular functional ingredients on the back of evidence that they can help reduce cholesterol.Clinical data indicates cholesterol levels can be reduced by between 8 and 15 per cent if 0.4g of plant sterols can be consumed twice daily.
The new Kashi crackers contain 0.4g of plant sterols per serving. In addition, they contain six antioxidants said to help support healthy arteries: Extracts from green tea, white tea and grape seed, vitamins E and C, and beta carotene.
At the end of last year, two mainstream bread products containing sterols were also launched in the US, indicating further manufacturer confidence in the category. These were Weston Bakeries’ Grains & More and Kroger’s Active Lifestyle brands.
According to Datamonitor market analyst Tom Vierhile, the new Kashi product is innovative as it is the first cracker product containing plant sterols launched in the US market.
Vierhile, who is the director of Datamonitor’s Product Lauch Analytics service, said its Productscan Online database has recorded sterol-containing cookies, candies, cereal, bread, potato chips and yogurt drinks, but no crackers.
According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), there were 72 sterol-containing food and beverage launches in 2007 around the world, with 27 in North America, 25 in the Asia Pacific and 18 in Europe.
In 2006, there were 18 products launched in North America, 45 in Europe, and only three in Asia Pacific, for a total of 67 globally.
In 2003, there were only six products debuted globally.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a health claim that states consumption of sterol-imbued products "may reduce the risk of heart disease", if products contain 0.65g of sterol esters or 0.4g of free phytosterols per serving.
These must be consumed twice per day (total intake of at least 0.8g plant sterols), as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
A US National Institutes of Health expert panel has recommended those with high LDL cholesterol consume 2g per day of sterols, along with eating more soluble fiber, cutting saturated fat and increasing exercise.