Competition in the low-fat Cheddar category is set to hot up next year, with Milk Link launching I Can't Believe It's Not Cheddar, The Grocer can exclusively reveal.

ICBINC is a 100%-cheese product that contains 30% less fat than standard Cheddar. It will be manufactured by Milk Link under licence from brand owner Unilever.

ICBINC would be the challenger brand in the lighter Cheddar category, which was currently dominated by Cathedral City Lighter, said Hamish Renton, marketing and innovation director at Milk Link.

"Lighter cheese has got a big way to go and the industry isn't going to meet its targets if it's a one-trick pony."

ICBINC would take lighter cheese to the mainstream, he added. "We feel Cathedral City is targeted at the more well-heeled shopper and there are an awful lot of people who aren't that well heeled."

Working with Unilever and using the 'I Can't Believe It's Not' name allowed it to bypass rules that prevented lower-fat Cheddars being called Cheddar but still get the message across, said Renton. "We were looking for a way we could say it was a Cheddar but without saying it was."

Milk Link would initially produce 1,000 tonnes of ICBINC, said Renton, although he would not be drawn on the projected sales performance.

However, he predicted lighter cheese would "very rapidly represent 10% of total Cheddar if we can get this right".

A January launch to tap into the annual healthy eating period will be supported by a full media campaign.

ICBINC follows the success of the 1991 UK launch of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. The butter-like brand is currently worth £55.4m in UK retail sales, up 92.9% from last year [IRI 52w/e 15 May 2010]. Milk Link hoped some of its success would rub off on the new line, added Renton. "We wanted to bring a product shoppers would recognise."

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