Expert View

Sean Chamberlain, marketing manager of Dairy Crest, gives his views on the market

Within the past 18 months, there have been dynamic and major movements within the yellow fats market. The sector is worth about 900m annually, and it offers massive choice on the shelf, with most retailers stocking about 30 brands.

Overall volume is in slight decline, as people eat less fat than they used to, but there has also been internal movement, away from low-fat and particularly polyunsaturated spreads to better tasting “dairy” products – even butter has seen a resurgence. Evidence shows recently launched dairy spreads have drawn on other margarines rather than butter for their volume, as consumers trade-up on the “better-tasting” scale.

This increasing influence of taste has been bolstered by recent confusion over health issues: the trans-fatty acid alarm which claimed that margarine was just as “unhealthy” as butter was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back. Faced with the contradictory health reports, people thought “why am I punishing myself?”, and switched to the better-tasting dairy spreads.

Loyalty within a repertoire is very high in the market, and we trace our brand loyalty directly to product difference and taste delivery, although there are consumers who are “deal-loyal” and switch on price.

A short time ago, there was a lot of tertiary brand activity taking advantage of the price factor, but the brands have come back fighting and I think in the future we will see continuing heavy ad-vertising support backed by the “call to action” at point of sale, concentrated behind half a dozen power brands.

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