Benecol reclaims UK cholesterol-lowering crown

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Europe

Benecol, which pioneered cholesterol-lowering foods in Europe in
1995, has moved ahead of Unilever's Flora Pro.activ in the UK
market after years in its wake.

While sales in the sterol foods category have been falling in many European markets as take-up rates have slowed, Benecol recorded an annual 2.4 per cent sales increase in the UK to a level of €37.5m. Pro.activ one shot yoghurt drink sales fell 36 per cent to €16m while Danone's Danacol plunged 79 per cent to €1.6m and has been withdrawn. Serious positioning ​Benecol's success in an increasingly tough market could be attributed to its "serious positioning and its appeal to the most health-conscious niche",​ according to New Nutriton Business​ magazine. "Like Yakult in digestive health, this is a brand that has had the virtue of staying focused, offering the same benefit, based on the same ingredient, consistently for many years,"​ the magazine wrote in an editorial. Both Pro.activ and Danacol, "had strayed away from a simple, easy-to-understand expert position,"​ it said and had paid the consequences by allowing Benecol to overtake "the mighty Unilever to resume its position as leader of the cholesterol-lowering niche." ​ Danone added omega-3 to Danacol before its demise and Flora launched an omega-3 one-shot drink in 2006 that has stalled at niche sales of about €4.4m. Benecol is also outperforming Pro.activ across Europe where both brands are available in most markets but Benecol sells in excess of €400m compared to €300 for Pro.activ. Pro.activ rethink ​Trevor Gorin, the head of Unilever PLC & UK media relations, said the brand was in the process of addressing issues that would culminate in a UK re-positioning "at some point this year to better communicate its benefits." ​ He told NutraIngredients.com Pro.activ needed to get back to basics and would focus on conveying the clinically proven benefits of consuming its sterol-imbued spreads, yoghurts and yoghurt drinks to the millions of UK consumers with raised cholesterol levels. "Talking from a UK focus, I think Pro.activ is one of those products based on a good idea that we did very well at first but haven't done very well in terms of communicating what it really can do in the past couple of years,"​ Gorin said. "That is what we are looking at redressing this year and we want to re-introduce the brand to those with cholesterol issues who may have tried it and introduce it to those that haven't." ​He said the fact the product was no longer 'new' meant retail positioning was compromised and that what Unilever was doing in the UK was not necessarily indicative of Pro.activ in other European markets. Pro.activ debuted as a spread in 2002 and quickly usurped Benecol as market leader in the UK, mainly because it offered the same clinically proven cholesterol benefit but a significantly reduced price point.

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