Rivals Unilever Bestfoods and McNeil Nutritionals Europe have shaken up the market with their functional spreads. UB's Flora Pro-activ and MNE's Benecol contain ingredients to help lower cholesterol and have appealed to consumers with health concerns. MNE says it demonstrates growth is possible in a declining category where there is room for innovation. "The addition of light and extra virgin olive oil variants shows we continue to innovate," says Kate Purcell, healthcare and communications director, Europe. The company has stood by its prices of £2.49 for 250g and £3.99 for the new 500g tub, 54p and 30p respectively higher than Flora Pro-activ. Purcell says: "Right from the start we had to explain what Benecol was, and differentiate between foods low in cholesterol and those that reduce it. Once understood, consumers know why it is expensive. It also offers retailers an extra profit opportunity." Education is a strong element in Benecol's marketing and a current new TV advertisement for the whole range presents the science behind Benecol in a humorous way to help put the message across. Flora Pro-activ was launched more than a year after Benecol, in August 2000. UB claims its brand is close to outselling Benecol three to one, and that Flora's heritage has helped sales. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}

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