With years of consumer education and communication from the industry, there has been increasing recognition of good fats and their health benefits, with a chief example being butter. As such, the demand for butter is growing, which greatly benefited sales at the end of the review period, with its wide application at breakfast and in cooking.
Whilst the “good” fats in dairy products are now perceived more positively, plant-based fats, such as those in avocado, also enjoyed growing popularity, thanks to the movement towards vegetarian/vegan and flexitarian lifestyles across Canada in recent years. Manufacturers of butter and spreads therefore introduced products with a strong emphasis on the incorporation of plant-based fats, attempting to alter the negative perceptions around products such as margarine with a more natural and less processed image.
In contrast to the steady growth of butter, margarine and spreads experienced an accelerated decline in 2017 and 2018, owing mainly to the negative image associated with such products. Even though manufacturers have been eliminating hydrogenated oils and fats and removing trans-fats from these products, the negativity around margarine and spreads has not gone away.
Unilever Canada held the highest value share in butter and spreads in 2018, thanks to the many leading brands in its portfolio, including Becel, Imperial, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and Pro Activ. The Becel brand has been actively engaged in new product development, attempting to reverse the decline in the overall category, with the latest examples being the Becel with Avocado Oil range and strong support for its vegan range.
Whilst the measures taken by Unilever saw some positive results, they were not sufficient to change its overall declining trend. For years, it has seen its share slide, as the margarine and spreads category in which it is dominant has been facing headwinds.
In 2018, Unilever Canada was followed by Parmalat Canada, Loblaw and Agropur Cooperative, which were a distance from the other players. These companies have a stronghold in butter, and benefited from the resurgence of interest in this category.
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