Matthews Foods is joining forces with top-selling olive oil brand Filippo Berio to take on the might of Unilever.

The Yorkshire-based yellow fats specialist, which enjoys a modest turnover of around £30m with its predominantly own label portfolio, is launching Filippo Berio Olive Spread into the market next month.

Although the company believes its offering will largely offer incremental value to the £60m-plus olive spreads sector, it also plans to make much of the fact it contains almost twice as much olive oil as its rivals.

One buyer said: “I think this could do very well. At the moment, Unilever really has a stranglehold on the branded
olive spread market with Olivio (now called Bertolli), but Matthews has come up with a more than credible rival.

“It will be interesting to see how consumers react, particularly as it contains more olive oil and will be more expensive than other spreads in the category.”

Matthews Foods marketing director Dave Coulson said its offering would hit chillers at a 30p premium to its rivals, retailing at £1.49 for a 500g tub.

Although reluctant to make specific predictions, he estimated the newcomer would be worth anywhere between £10-£20m in its first year on sale. Unilever’s Bertolli spread, which will continue to carry the Olivio name as a sub brand during a £5m name-change campaign, generated sales of more than £31m in multiple grocers last year [Information Resources 52 w/e October 6 2002], making it the seventh best selling yellow fats spread overall.

However, not all comers to the sector have fared so well, with Dairy Crest’s Argento among those failing to make much of an impression on the market leader.
Simon Mowbray