The speciality area is led by the £53.3m olive oil spreads sector which boasts of combining taste with a feel-good factor.
The top brand is Unilever Bestfoods' Olivio with a 69% value share. Its continued domination of the sector has been helped by several bursts of national TV advertising, emphasising the brand's healthy, Mediterranean image.
With the recent acquisition of St Ivel's branded spreads, Dairy Crest gained a second olive oil spread, Carapelli, to sit alongside its Argento brand. Argento was launched in June supported by a £2.5m marketing campaign.
However, Dairy Crest's sales and marketing director Richard Tolley says it is too early to discuss results, but he does claim an impressive debut for the newcomer. "The value of the olive oil spreads sector was in decline year-on-year when we launched Argento, but now it is growing at 10.6% [ACNielsen MAT Sept 7 2002]. Our entry and investment in the sector has pulled the category forward.
"We're playing a longer ball game than Unilever in seeking to capture with Argento the younger end of the market with the most long-term potential. Whereas Olivio is popular with older shoppers."
Tolley says Argento is half the size of Carapelli by volume at the moment and is in third place in the olive oil spreads sector.
Carapelli has seen strong growth since it was introduced in 2000 says Tolley.
Analysts, however, have questioned the wisdom of possessing two olive oil spread brands and Tolley himself doubts whether there is room for more than three in the sector.
Speciality butters, alongside spreadables, are driving up spend on butter. Most major multiples have launched an own label speciality butter in the past year as part of their premium ranges.
Tesco put its Britanny and Cornish butters under its Finest label, Safeway introduced its Britanny butter with sea salt and Sainsbury's entries were its Taste The Difference Normandy and Alpine butters.
Sales of Lactalis UK's Pr鳩dent branded unsalted block butter have grown by 59% in volume and by 60.5% in value during the year, while volume sales of Pr鳩dent Softer have risen by 67.1% and by 58.1% in value terms [ACNielsen MAT Sept 7].
Lactalis sales director Stephen Hull says UK sales of its potted butters Bridel, Lanquetot and La Motte are slight in comparison to Pr鳩dent, but he believes branded specialities have a lot of potential as consumers search for high taste, low fat products, and to build on this Lactalis plans a launch in the first quarter of next year.
"It will be a 40% fat butter with added cream for taste. It has been consumer tested in France and we hope to introduce it to the trade early next year, ready for a launch in March or April."
Other speciality butters enjoying success include St Helen's Farm goats butter, for which the company claims demand has increased 30% year-on-year. Highgrove Foods has seized on the interest in the sector to launch its Gold Top pure Jersey butter, and plans to follow this up with pure Guernsey butter.