Reduced sugar and low-carb spreads have work to do if they are to capitalise fully on the quest for healthier lifestyles, but some lines are showing potential and winning converts

Reduced sugar jams have, to date, failed to reap high rewards from the controversy over obesity or the hunger for healthier food alternatives. Sales of reduced sugar jams, worth £10.2m, were up only 2% over the last year and have an 11.2% share of the jams market [TNS Superpanel].
Ted McFadyen, grocery buyer for Waitrose, says: “Most people watching their weight realise the quantity of jam they consume is so small in comparison with the rest of their diet that changing to a reduced sugar or fruit spread alternative will not make a difference.”
He says St Dalfour has had a good year within the fruit spread sector, but believes many consumers buying do not realise it is a no-added-sugar product.
“Most customers buy it for its taste. We have delisted Streamline (a reduced sugar jam brand) and customers have not clamoured for its return.”
Louise Bennett, buyer for desserts and baking at Asda, comments: “Reduced sugar is still holding its market share versus standard jam but is not in massive growth. Those products which are both premium and healthy are those that are the stars in the sweet spread area.”
The Weight Watchers range from Premier Foods, which contains half the sugar of standard jam, has fared well with year-on-year sales growth of 8.5% [AC Nielsen MAT w/e October 30 2004].
Last October, the range was updated for the first time in eight years with a new livery. “We’ve had great feedback,” says Ardron. “It has a strong appeal and it’s a great way of bringing new consumers into the sector.”
To demonstrate further confidence in the growth of the reduced sugar sector, Premier launched Hartley’s Reduced Sugar last October, including four jams and two marmalades.
“We’re aiming at consumers looking for a healthier choice,” says Ardron. “It’s an alternative to the Weight Watchers range. This sector relies on constant innovation - we need to work with retailers to move the fixture forward.”
One of the latest innovations in the sector is Duerr’s Low Carb Spread range, which capitalises on the popularity of the Atkins Diet.
Since its launch last October, sales are encouraging, says Richard Duerr, sales and marketing director.
“It’s in the healthy-eating aisle at Sainsbury, but people looking to buy jam won’t be going down that aisle. I’d prefer it to be in the main fixture in the way organic jam is with the jams and organic beans are with the beans.”
Somerfield has listed three Duerr’s Low Carb Spread products which it will probably stock in the jam fixture, and there has been interest from Waitrose, Tesco and Morrisons. Duerr adds: “People are moving to reduce their sugar intake and we’ve taken it a step further - 21% of people are watching their carbohydrates and besides Atkins, there are low-carb diets such as South Beach. We’d like to talk to the NHS and schools to see if they are interested.”
At the Co-operative Group, category buyer Judith Sinclair-Smith says it’s too early to see how Duerr’s Low Carb range will perform.
“There is no doubt it offers the health-conscious customer the lower calorie/low-carb option, but as the main host product for a fruit spread is high-carb - bread, scones or crumpets - the message could mislead an already confused customer.”
It is a year since Streamline added a range of five premium conserves to its line-up. The company is planning an extensive marketing campaign for this year to introduce younger consumers to the category, including on-pack activity.
“It has succeeded in bringing new consumers to the reduced-sugar category,” says Clive Davies, Streamline’s sales and marketing director.
“Our aim is to demonstrate that you can have a treat, something low in sugar that still tastes delicious. For that reason, we went to the BBC Good Food Show last November for the second year running to raise awareness. Feedback via samplings and tastings from the general public was fantastic.”