Capitalising on its domination of the UK market over rival Benecol, Unilever intends on taking its Flora pro-activ plant sterol margarine brand to new foods and new markets across Europe. Unilever submitted a Novel Foods application to the UK Food Standards Agency for "milk and yoghurt-type" products containing its cholesterol-lowering ingredient.
Unilever's pro-activ brand, launched in 2000, already outsells Benecol by an estimated 3-to-1 margin in the UK. Across Europe, both brands are actively vying for market share. Benecol already sells a range of these products in Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Although guarded about the company's future plans, Unilever Bestfoods press officer Helen Park confirmed the submission of the application and said, "It has to go through the Novel Foods process. We don't know how long that will take, and we can't do anything until we receive approval."
As FF&N went to press, the application was being considered by the UK's independent expert Advisory Committee for Novel Foods and Processes. The products under consideration include skimmed, semi-skimmed and vegetable-based milk variants and 'yoghurt type' products.
One industry analyst noted risks associated with "diluting a brand's image by too many product ranges."