Tesco taps low-carb trend under health strategy

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Related tags: Tesco, Nutrition, Carbohydrate

The UK's top food retailer Tesco is to label 120 foods that are
'naturally low in carbs', such as cheese, nuts and fish, with a new
low-carb logo, in a bid to increase takings from the millions of
British dieters, reports Dominique Patton.

The Carb Conscious label, being introduced from January, will also be found on 40 new products under Tesco's own label that will offer low or lower carbohydrate versions of standard bakery products and ready and frozen meals.

"We now have the largest range of low and lower carbohydrate products of any UK retailer,"​ said Hamish Renton, Tesco's project and brand leader for health.

The move can be seen as a significant vote of confidence in the 'low-carb' trend, expected by some to fizzle out in the near future.

"We know that a significant minority of our customers are exploring low-carb ways of lowering their weight,"​ Renton told NutraIngredients.com.

The low-carb trend, started by the Atkins diet, has not had the same impact in Europe as in the US although Atkins UK says its business remains strong.

The trend has also been buoyed by the creation of 'lower carb' products, such as the new 17-product range from Unilever. The food manufacturer said its Carb Options range is designed to respond to the explosion of 'carb conscious' consumers who do not want to go on 'extreme' diets like Atkins that require almost total elimination of carbohydrates from the diet in the early stages.

Tesco's initiative follows this softer approach to carb counting and is likely to extend consumer awareness of carbs, given the firm's dominant position in the marketplace.

In the 12-weeks to 7 November, Tesco accounted for 28.3 per cent of total grocery sales, nearly 12 per cent ahead of Asda, the number two retailer in the UK, and 13 per cent ahead of Sainsbury, according to data from TNS Superpanel.

However M&M Plant Retail analyst Corinne Millar says the move is part of an industry-wide trend for retailers to offer healthier products to counter government scrutiny of their role in the UK's obesity epidemic.

"This is part of a big push by retailers to show that they are doing something to fight obesity. Tesco, as usual, is at the forefront of this trend,"​ she said.

Tesco has also recently introduced labelling for low glycaemic index foods, which it aims to extend to more than 1000 products by mid-2005. It is the only retailer to do so to date, but others are likely to follow.

"The grocery sector is so competitive that once one of them does something, the others follow,"​ said Millar.

"However Tesco has obviously identified a niche market and been quick to jump on it. It is all part of the same process of introducing low-fat, low-salt foods but Tesco has gone one step further with low-GI,"​ she added.

Millar noted that Tesco's 50 per cent stake in the supplement retailer Nutri Centre, and its strong organic range, also gives it an edge over rivals in attracting health-conscious consumers.

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