'Unilever's Carb Options: will Canadians bite?' (Strategy, June 14/04, p. 3) was a very stimulating article on a very exciting strategic branding initiative!

‘Unilever’s Carb Options: will Canadians bite?’ (Strategy, June 14/04, p. 3) was a very stimulating article on a very exciting strategic branding initiative!

I have to admit, I’m living the Atkins lifestyle. That, combined with my 20 plus years of branding and package design, I believe, gives me an enlightened perspective (sorry!). My prognosis is a little more favourable than my colleagues’.

From a strategic standpoint, the Carb Options brand is of particular interest because:

1. The survival of many Unilever food brands depends on leveraging the low-carb movement.

2. Carb Options is a broad-scope, multi-category brand solution similar to customercentric retailer brands.

3. Launching a brand, rather than slapping a flash on an existing pack, allows for a more focused and effective marketing effort.

The so called ‘healthy-for-you fad’ has been around for over 20 years and it’s not going away any time soon. During the past decade, oil- and fat-based food businesses like Unilever have been hit hard by the low-fat movement. When it comes to food and health, consumers look for leadership from whomever will provide it. This is where the opportunity exists.

The Carb Options brand highlights a common feature of Unilever food products: They’re inherently low-carb. The co-branding, i.e., Carb Options/Hellmann’s, ensures the long-term survival of these established brands. Now, when supporting a single brand, Unilever calls attention to many of its brands.

Adding a carb-friendly flash to an existing package would amount to a ripple in the ocean. What was needed was an in-store tidal wave. This branding architecture is more like a typical retail brand, in that it facilitates greater massing on shelf and visibility throughout the store.

Carb Options is consumercentric. If you are on a hunt for low-carb products, you will rejoice when you see that blue-and-white package in the category you’re shopping. And here’s something that’s slipped under the radar, Unilever is one of the few manufactures to use Splenda rather than aspartame. Why? Because that’s what Atkins followers are looking for.

Unilever has taken a leadership position supporting the low-carb movement, rather than simply paying lip service to it. Well done.

Grant Millard, executive director,

strategic & creative development

Watt International

Toronto, Ont.