Unilever has finally decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, with a range of low-carb as well as low-calorie foods under its Slim-Fast slimming brand.
The move comes after a drop in performance of the Slim-Fast brand in the US, which Unilever blamed on the rise in popularity of the Atkins diet, in which consumers are encouraged to eat more protein and fat as an alternative way to lose weight. While in the UK profitability has not been as badly hit, the new range clearly shows that Unilever isn't taking any chances.
In September last year diet brand Weight Watchers, another champion of a low-fat rather than a low-carb diet, also admitted defeat in the face of the Atkins diet with the launch of a similar range of products.
Available from the start of this month, in time for traditional post-Christmas rush for healthy and diet products, the Slim-Fast Low Cal Low Carb Diet range consists of four snack bars, a reformulation of two of its classic milkshake drinks and a Tomato & Vegetable soup. More products are expected to be added to the range over the year.
The bars are available in Chocolate & Hazelnut; Banana Crunch; Apple & Cranberry; and Strawberry, while the milkshakes come in Chocolate and Strawberry varieties.
While the range is low-carb, it stays true to the Slim-Fast plan of cutting calories as well, says Simon Barnett, category manager at Unilever. "Today, more people are cutting down on carbs in their diet, but this is not enough to lose weight, you must cut calories too."
According to Unilever, the diet market has huge potential for growth, and it believes that a product that appeals to both low carb dieters and calorie and fat counters will add a further dimension to the category. Barnett says that while one in five people purport to watch their carb intake, only around one in 50 are actually on low carb diets. "The new Low Cal Low Carb Diet range fits into consumers' busy lifestyles and recognises this new trend," he says.
The range will be supported by a £2.2m marketing campaign and Unilever expects it to quickly establish itself among the £55.8m slimming aids market.