Growth in organic breakfast cereals has prompted mainstream producer Cereal Partners to take its first steps into the sector, with the launch of Bitesize Organic Shredded Wheat at the end of this month.

According to the com­pany, the market has grown by 17% in the past two years but is dominated by muesli, which accounts for five of the top ten bestselling brands. Shredded Wheat group product manager Phil Toms said the new product would offer consumers greater choice, adding that the brand's "long and trusted heritage" and associations with health messages, such as wholegrain and heart health, made the move credible.

Nestlé, one half of the Cereal Partners joint venture with General Mills, has already embraced the health issue, with the launch last year of a worldwide Nutritional Compass initiative, which introduced calorie and nutritional information across its beve­rages, chilled dairy and cereals. It added confectionery earlier this year.

Despite increased consumer interest in ethics and nutrition, it is still only 12% of the UK population that buys 68% of all organic food, and there is a risk that consumers may be suspicious of a move by a mainstream producer that does not have obvious ethical credentials.

Nestlé, for example, courted contro­versy last year with the launch of Partners' Blend coffee.

The move was intended to reinforce the company's long-term commitment to developing sustainable agricultural prac­tices for small coffee farmers, but some commentators dismissed it as a cynical one and consumers also seem to have been sceptical.

According to figures from ACNielsen, Partners' Blend has racked up sales of only £168,000 so far.

However, a Nestlé spokeswoman said the company was "socially responsible".