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Racing to keep up with the Atkins dieters: the reduced-calorie sector has changed its game as a result of the Atkins Diet.

A frenzy of interest in low carbohydrate regimes such as the Atkins Diet has caused a shift in UK dieters' attitudes.

New lines such as the Carbolite confectionery range imported by Retail Brands are aimed at slimmers on the programme, many of whom have abandoned the core shakes and meal bars range of established brands like Slim-Fast for high protein options.

Slim-Fast's sales have been dented and this, together with the fact the UK diet food market is now worth 110m [pounds sterling], has forced parent Unilever to rethink its strategy. The launch of six reduced calorie frozen ready meals from its Birds Eye arm last month forms the spearhead of its response.

A TV and print campaign is planned early in the new year and marketing manager Jess Blandford says promotional activity demonstrating the effectiveness of the Slim-Fast plan, coupled with new products, will help sales.

The reduced calorie ready meal market is worth 2.1bn [pounds sterling], with much of the innovation coming from the multiples, which account for a whopping 89% of its distribution, according to Mintel. It predicts that the multiples will cut prices aggressively in the new year to cash in on diet-conscious shoppers.

Not content with just reduced-calorie ready meals, Tesco has launched its own diet food range, Ultraslim, and will promote it heavily at its Healthy Living instore event in January. Findus is similarly keen to attract dieting consumers, having resurrected its Lean Cuisine brand this year in a bid to boost the Feeling Great! range. Weight Watchers continues to build on the points system developed for its diet clubs, with new products aimed at attracting new consumers. Frozen oven chips and roast potatoes, both from Heinz, mean the brand now has a stake in the 265m [pounds sterling] roast and chip market.

Mark Holdaway, business unit director for Heinz Frozen Foods, says combining a range of Weight Watchers products, including soups, desserts, pizzas and frozen meals, is the best way to capitalise on the post-new year sales surge, and claims the Atkins diet has had no effect on sales.

"Weight Watchers consumers are loyal to the brand," he insists.

Other categories driving sales for the Weight Watchers brand are bread, with products made by Warburtons, and cheese spread from Kavli. Warburtons is launching a January on-pack promotion to encourage trial and repeat purchase.
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Title Annotation:diet foods
Comment:Racing to keep up with the Atkins dieters: the reduced-calorie sector has changed its game as a result of the Atkins Diet.(diet foods)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 29, 2003
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