Unilever started its crusade to turn around the fortune of functional products at the beginning of this year when it pumped £15m into a marketing campaign for its Flora Pro-activ brand.
The push was designed to tackle consumer confusion about cholesterol-lowering products, which Phil Ellis, category director for spreads at Unilever, confirms is still a big issue. And there is still a way to go to reach the full potential of the sector, he adds.
The difference between 'good' and 'bad' fats needs to be communicated effectively for a start.
"This year we are looking for Flora to challenge public perceptions about heart health to ensure people are clear about the dangers of saturated fat and the 'good' unsaturated fats," he says.
The company's latest initiative to educate shoppers is a £9m marketing campaign.
It is spearheaded by a character called Seeds, who acts as a spokesperson for the brand to educate children about 'good and bad' fats.
The push, called Cooking with Schools, targets children and parents through a school educational drive. It reduces the focus on functionality and aims to return Flora to its roots as a family cooking brand.
Flora sales have picked up recently, with the latest Nielsen figures showing a 0.7% increase to £186.5m year-on-year.
In the year to October 2007, the Flora brand fell 1.9% in value.
However, its volume was down 5.7% compared with Lurpak's 5.2% increase. Lurpak value sales were up 20% to £218.6m in the same period.
Keen to hold on now that it has won the top spot, Lurpak is looking into NPD opportunities that help consumers control their intake of saturated fat.
"Some people will never give up butter for poor-tasting alternatives, so we recognise the need to help consumers ring in the changes in their diet through product innovation," says Stuart Ibberson, senior brand manager for Lurpak. "By switching people from lower-value products, our category strategy is to encourage trade up and increase overall value as taste continues to be the key driver."
In contrast to functional, the wellbeing sector - which includes better-for-you and lighter options - was back in vogue, with sales up 3.4% to £223.1m [TNS].
Unilever's Ellis put the reversal of fortunes for the sector, which had decreased 1.1% the previous year, down to new product development and marketing activity.
A light option from I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, the relaunch of Flora Buttery and the reformulation of Flora Diet, renamed Flora Extra Light, have all played their part.n