More success from branded products, such as Cathedral City cheddar, Country Life Spreadable butter and Frijj milk drinks, helped to drive sales, said Dairy Crest in a pre-close trading statement for the year ending 31 March. The news showed Dairy Crest had held its position after a year of deals to re-focus the business on added value sectors and away from commodity markets. Signs of trouble emerged from the UK spreads sector, however. Dairy Crest's Utterly Butterly and St Ivel brands continued to suffer in this market during the second half of the year, reflecting declines across the UK spreads sector generally, the firm said. Sales for Utterly Butterly and St Ivel Gold brands fell 11 and 18 per cent respectively during Dairy Crest's first half. The firm said it would harness consumer health trends to stop the rot, and said it was currently working on lower fat versions of its popular spreads brands. The first, Country Life Spreadable Lighter, is set to be launched in April and will look to challenge the more established Lurpack Spreadable Lighter from Arla Foods. Consumer health trends and greater demand for organic food are likely to play a greater part in Dairy Crest's overall development this year. It recently launched Cathedral City Lighter and Country Life organic milk. The firm's takeover of French group Uniq, has also handed it access to the St Hubert spreads brand. St Hubert Omega 3 was growing strongly in its home French market, Dairy Crest said. The Uniq deal underlined a year of transition for Dairy Crest in 2006, following on from the sale of its private label cheese business to First Milk and the takeover of Arla's doorstep milk delivery business, Express Dairies. "These transactions are all in line with Dairy Crest's strategy to improve the quality of its earnings and reduce the Group's exposure to commodity markets," the firm said this week. Dairy Crest will report its full year results on 22 May.