Arla poised for UK Atkins dairy launch

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Arla Foods UK is to launch a line of branded low-carb dairy
products endorsed by US diet company Atkins, but will the UK prove
a suitable market for long-term success? Tom Armitage

Arla Foods UK, a subsidiary of leading European dairy company Arla Foods, said in a financial statement issued at the beginning of the week that it would be seeking to consolidate investment across its branded product divisions, as the increasingly competitive liquid milk sector provides milk processors with diminishing returns.

Using ultra and nano filtration methods, lactose - the main source of carbohydrates in dairy products - will be removed. The low-carb dairy product line, scheduled for release in the new year, will include Atkins-branded milk and yoghurts. Arla claims that the new Atkins milk brand will "reduce the carb content of standard milk by 50 per cent."

A spokesperson for Arla Foods UK told​ that contrary to press reports it was not planning to launch a low-carb cheese: "cheese is already considered an acceptable low-carb food by the Atkins diet."

Already the company has found considerable success in the lucrative UK diet market, rolling out innovative variations to long-standing brands. Its Lurpak and Anchor brands for instance are now available to buy in a low-fat lighter spreadable version.

According to Arla Foods UK, the Lurpak spreadable range now accounts for £116 million, out of the brand's total sales of £151 million.

In 2003 Arla's main UK rival, dairy processor Robert Wiseman Dairies, sucessfully tapped into the lucrative niche diet market, launching The One - a liquid milk product containing 1 per cent fat, which has now secured a nationwide distribution deal with UK multiples Tesco and Asda.

But where Wiseman has successfully exploited the continuing consumer demand for healthy products, some believe Arla's Atkins range is appealing to too specific a consumer niche. In the US, for instance, where the low-carb fad originated, sales are already slowing, and the UK market is likely to display a similar future trend.

According to David Jago, editorial director of market analysts Mintel's GNPD, "we will inevitably see more low-carb foods in the UK but recent negative media coverage is likely to limit future growth."

"Not many brands are well-placed enough to support a low-carb range, and this is not the first time that low-carbs have come around. There was also a lot of noise about the diet in the 70s, but it never really took off."

Arla, however, disagreed: "a lot of UK consumers still follow an Atkins-related diet routine. We do not launch products for which there is no significant consumer demand."

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