Magazine article Marketing

Unilever Spreads out with Olive Branch: Van Den Berghs' First New Brand in Three Years Will Not Make Any Health Claims

Magazine article Marketing

Unilever Spreads out with Olive Branch: Van Den Berghs' First New Brand in Three Years Will Not Make Any Health Claims

Article excerpt

Unilever spreads out with olive branch

Unilever yellow fats subsidiary Van den Berghs is set to launch its first new brand for three years. Olivio claims to be the only spread in Europe containing olive oil and high in monounsaturated fat.

It will be introduced on test in London next February, backed by a 645,000 [pounds] TV advertising campaign through Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) - the ad agency's debut with a Unilever company.

Olivio contains 24% olive oil, as well as rape seed oil and bean oil, which takes its monounsaturates content over the 45% mark. Monounsaturates hit the headlines last year when it was revealed that if they were used to replace saturated fats in the diet, they lowered harmful LDL cholesterol levels in the blood as effectively as polyunsaturated fats - without lowering the protective HDL cholesterol level, as polyunsaturates have been shown to do.

But Van den Berghs does not intend to make any health claims for Olivio. The only reference to monounsaturates is on the pack.

"The reason we're not making claims is we've found a much better thing to say," says senior brand manager Karen Morris.

Advertising and PR will focus on the quality, emotional values and "specialness" of olive oil. "People know olive oil is good - it's not something you need to say," adds Morris.

But critics allege there are other reasons for the company not making overt health claims.

"The reason why they don't want to is because they don't want to water down the polyunsaturates message," comments one observer.

Van den Berghs' Flora has grown into a 110m [pounds] brand thanks largely to its polyunsaturated fat platform. In the process it has become synonymous with sunflower oil and polyunsaturated fats. But it has also come under fire from various pressure groups for making health claims. Since 1984 it has been unable to link polyunsaturated fat with a reduction in the risk of heart disease. (See box).

However, as yet there are no regulations covering claims which can be made in connection with monounsaturates. But if a proposed EC directive on health claims and food marketing comes into effect early next year then all health claims in relation to food products will be banned.

By not even trying to go down that route Van den Berghs has neatly sidestepped a problem, it seems.

It hopes that eventually Olivio will become synonymous with olive oil and monounsaturates. Public awareness of monounsaturates is low at the moment, although it is emerging as a topic in medical circles. But, says Morris, "It's not marketed on a monounsaturates platform, but we have it on pack and it will be there should there become a consumer demand for it. …

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