DMV currently markets a peptide that has been shown in trials to lower blood pressure. It has been available in a clear beverage registered as a Foshu product in Japan for several years but in the US and Europe it is still only available in supplement form under brands like Twinlab and Springfield in Europe.
However Daniella Witte, responsible for the heart health peptides and milk calcium at the Dutch company, noted that cholesterol-lowering foods have also taken some time to develop.
She believes that changing attitudes to blood pressure are set to significantly grow demand for blood pressure-lowering foods, as another segment of the heart health category.
"Consumers are becoming more aware of the risk of high blood pressure through more media coverage. For instance the December 2004 issue of Time magazine ran a big issue about blood pressure," she told NutraIngredients.com.
"Consumers tend to rely on physicians for serious issues like blood pressure and don't have the knowledge about how to deal with it on their own. But as education levels increase, alongside growing interest in functional foods and longer term health, there will be greater demand for these kinds of products," she added.
US researchers warned earlier this year that incidence of high blood pressure will increase by 60 per cent among adults over the next 20 years.
Hypertension is already estimated to cause two thirds of strokes and half the incidence of heart disease, according to the World Health Organisation. Globally, high blood pressure kills about 7.1 million people.
Japan has been the first to respond to the rising incidence with a number of products containing lactic acid bateria that can reduce blood pressure levels.
Peptides look to be the ingredients of choice for the European market however, as DMV works with food makers on formulations with its C12 peptide.
"We're working with partners in the food area. We could expect the first product in Europe some time next year," said Witte.
Until recently, Finnish dairy Valio was the only company to market a food with a blood pressure lowering claim based on its own peptide. However Unilever's partnership with Japan's Calpis announced earlier this month will significantly change the market, triggering other companies to enter the category, believes Witte.
She added that although Valio's product has been on the market for some years, it has recently launched in new markets "so this is also a sign that the category is really developing".
Leatherhead has forecast that the whole heart health category will grow by 60 per cent to reach nearly $5.7 billion by 2009 as food makers try to help prevent the biggest cause of deaths around the world.