What sugar debate? Spreads seem unscathed by the controversy over Britain’s expanding waistlines, if the growth of sweet spreads at the expense of savoury is anything to go by.

Of course Nutella, which has enjoyed the sector’s greatest value gain (worth £7m), says it’s the perfect addition to any healthy, balanced diet, and market leader Rowse says the unprocessed nature of honey is helping it tap demand for more natural, healthier food.

Nevertheless, their growth at the expense of Marmite, which was toppled as the sector’s top seller last year by Rowse and relegated to third this year by Nutella, makes one thing clear: the sugar debate has done nothing to curb the nation’s sweet tooth.

Nutella says its £4.5m Wake Up To Nutella campaign, a push that included TV ads promoting the product’s versatility as a breakfast component, has been key to its impressive growth over the past year. The brand’s ongoing £1.8m #betterwithnutella push is keeping the momentum, adds Ferrero customer development director Levi Boorer.

jams & spreads tpt

“It educates consumers on the diversity of the product as both an ingredient and a topping,” he says. Ferrero has also launched a rare piece of NPD - Nutella & Go, representing “an integral part of our ambitious growth plans,” according to Boorer.

Communicating versatility has been key to Rowse’s approach too. Although value is down slightly (following 17.6% growth in 2013), Rowse is confident that NPD aimed at specific occasions such as baking, cooking and fighting colds will keep it in the top spot. Its new lemon & manuka variant, for instance, is aimed at cold sufferers.

Gale’s Honey, which has seen its value sales fall 7.7%, is also hoping to cash in on the trend for using honey for a wider range of culinary applications by giving usage suggestions on pack. “For example, Gale’s cinnamon or Gale’s vanilla for topping porridge,” explains David Atkinson, MD of grocery at brand owner Hain Daniels.

Not everyone has hit the sweet spot. Jam and marmalade are down 4.9% in value, with own label faring worst. Bonne Maman is one of the few success stories with value up 7.8%, while the continuing popularity of cake-making has helped bump curds sales; Gale’s curds are up 7.9%; Tiptree’s up 21.6%. Kallo’s Whole Earth peanut butter has also had a good year, with value sales up 19.2%. NPD has helped: Whole Earth now offers one peanut butter with sunflower seeds and another with sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds.

All this has left Marmite looking like more people hate than love it these days. But don’t rule it out yet: Unilever is promising a big ad push for the brand in 2015.


Top launch: Nutella & Go by Ferrero

Technically speaking, this is more dip than spread. It’s still a great example of how a mature brand can unlock new growth by stepping into a new sector, though. 

Ferrero hopes this new launch - pots containing Nutella and bread sticks (rsp: 84p/48g), unveiled in the summer - will bring the brand to those with not enough time to spread it on toast or dollop it on their oats. The launch also marks the brand’s first foray into the impulse confectionery market.