In the 1970's, the Finnish government turned its attention to
the poor health of many of its people. A ground-breaking health
intervention, the North Karelia Project, worked with health
professionals, the public, food manufacturers and other
organisations to change lifestyle choices. Its bold aim was to
improve public health - especially through preventative measures.
High cholesterol was amongst the issues considered, as it was
already recognised as one of the most significant risk factors for
There was a suggestion that special cholesterol lowering foods
could be made, using naturally occurring plant sterols. So, led by
researcher Ingmar Wester at Raisio, an expert team was assembled to
create the first of these foods.
But there was a considerable technical roadblock. Although it
was already known that sterols could lower cholesterol there were
no suitable methods for including the ingredient in food.
One day in 1989, as Ingmar played at home with his young
daughter, an idea gripped him, and he raced back to the lab. After
years of research, he had suddenly worked out how to create plant
stanol ester, an evolved version of plant sterols. Ingmar's
innovation enabled plant stanols to be put into foods - for the
first time - without compromising taste and effectiveness. It's
important to remember that although plant stanols occur naturally
in fruit and vegetables, the amount you would need to eat to get
any benefit is huge. With Ingmar's new process, higher
concentrations could be included, enabling us all to enjoy the
benefits much more easily.
Finding a way of producing great tasting foods which actively
lower cholesterol, the experts became excited. Beneco®l represented
an entirely new category of foods and a solution to the
Clinical studies confirming the effect of plant stanol ester
were first published in 1992. Already holding more than half of the
Finnish margarine market, Raisio saw an opportunity. By 1995,
Benecol margarine - the first product of its kind in the world -