The butter and spreads category is the biggest faller in absolute value of 2013, reveals The Grocer Top Products Survey.

The sector haemorrhaged £57m in the year to 12 October, taking total category value down to £1.3bn [Nielsen].

Unilever’s Flora saw the sharpest decline, plummeting 12.2% to £181.9m - a loss of £25.3m. The losses follow Unilever’s reformulation of the brand in January 2013 and come despite it reverting to the original recipe in June following consumer complaints.

Unilever claimed sales were down across the category because of aggressive promotional tactics, which had resulted in deeper discounts and a growing proportion of volumes being sold on deal. “This has been driven by consumers having more choice at key breakfast and lunch occasions, which makes driving consumption a challenge,” said Adrian Adams, senior category manager for chilled food.

Frequency of purchase was in decline and penetration remained static, added Dairy Crest, which owns Clover, Country Life and Utterly Butterly.

“The butters and spreads category is non-expandable and falling volume suggests an overall drop in usage,” said shopper controller Adam Mehegan.

Dairy Crest saw a drop in value sales for Clover (down 2.4%), Country Life (down 12.9%) and Utterly Butterly (down 18.5%). For Country Life and Utterly Butterly, volumes were also down, but Clover saw a marginal year on year rise.

At its annual investor event this month, Unilever said it planned to give its spreads portfolio a new focus on ‘Better Taste, More Natural, Better Health and Better Values’. The initial strategy “appears to involve introducing butter to elements of its range,” said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black, who attended the event.