The Finnish company has struggled to remain profitable in recent times. Its food division experienced a "deeply unprofitable" 2006, struggling to cope with price increases and major restructuring. Benecol has proven an important prop in keeping the company together, and is now sold in more than 20 countries worldwide. Over the past decade, the Finnish company has built up the stanol ester based ingredient from scratch. Now it has some 14 licensees and products sold worldwide, and reported ingredient turnover of €44.7 million in 2004. Interim results this year showed a plunge in turnover, falling from €27m to €23.1m year-on-year. As a result Raisio agreed to shed some 54 jobs and close two mills to save some €4m.Sales of Benecol were said to be doing well - although figures have never been released - and the ingredient has for many years been the money-making power house at the company. Raisio reached the agreement with the Ecuadorian company Industrias Lácteas Toni, which is said to have chosen the product because it has been supported by clinical studies. The company said earlier this year it will continue to explore new markets to turn the financial tables around, and has cited Asia as another area for potential growth. A Raisio spokesperson said: "There clearly is a market for such products in Ecuador; statistics indicate that 40 per cent of adults in Ecuador have high levels of cholesterol, and heart-related diseases are one of the major causes of death. "The same applies for the whole continent which offers a great business opportunity for cholesterol-lowering foods also in the other countries in South-America." This is not the first entry to the South American market. It is already available in Chile and Argentina. Raisio was not available for further comment prior to publication on how well the ingredient had been received in these countries. In the last financial statement from Raisio, the company said it hoped to report a break-even result in the last quarter of 2007. However, this could be put at risk by any impact exceptional weather conditions have on grain prices.