Unilever Bestfoods is planning to take low-carb into the mainstream in the UK with the launch of a range of 17 everyday grocery products under the Carb Options brand in September.
The range, which includes pasta and cooking sauces, is targeted at consumers who are wanting a hassle-free way of reducing their carbohydrate intake - without having to compromise on taste or having to pay exorbitant prices.
Unilever Bestfoods claims that low-carb will not be a passing fad. It says consumers are now more aware of the role of carbohydrates in their diet. And it points to research showing that while only 3% of consumers are following a strict Atkins diet, 21% claim to be watching their carbs as part of efforts to enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
The experience of the States would appear to back that up. Over there, low-carb has grown into a $1bn category.
And Carb Options, which Unilever launched in the US in January, is on track to generate first-year sales of $100m.
Tony Smith, sales director of Unilever Bestfoods UK, said the company was keen to repeat that success on this side of the Atlantic. He said: “Other major manufacturers are looking. There’s going to be lots of activity in the market. We just wanted to be first.”
Carb Options is an important development for parent company Unilever, which has been hit hard by the Atkins phenomenon in many product categories - particularly in the United States.
Unilever will be unveiling its second quarter trading results on July 28, when it will also tell shareholders about the UK launch of Carb Options.
>>p46 Low-carb show on road