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Weetabix acts on rising demand for healthy oats

By Catherine Boal , 24-Aug-2006

The iconic UK cereal brand Weetabix has added a new oat variety to its portfolio in a bid to attract health-conscious consumers seeking to benefit from its cholesterol-lowering properties.

Oatibix resembles the standard weetabix biscuit but has a 97 per cent oat content, it will be launched in conjunction with Oatibix bitesize - a smaller version of the cereal.

Weetabix is one of many cereal makers who are increasingly marketing products from a health platform in an effort to counteract the poor health image of ready to eat breakfast fare.

Last month a survey by consumer magazine Which? criticised Weetabix product raisin and cranberry Weetaflakes for containing 30.7g of sugar per 100g.

But it could be said that with the launch of a new oat product the cereal maker has attempted to address consumer health concerns by tapping into the growing oat market.

Oats have been enjoying a surge in popularity on the back of the trend towards functional foods and healthy eating. According to market researchers Mintel, value sales of oats increased by 26 per cent between 2003 and 2005 and sales grew by 81 per cent from 2000 to 2005.

Meanwhile, over the same five year period, volume sales also increased by a healthy 43 per cent with Britons consuming 50,000 tonnes of oat-based products last year alone

Oats have been praised by food scientists as being an effective way of reducing cholesterol and studies have suggested that, when taken as part of a healthy diet, they can reduce the risk of heart disease.

As well as being a source of antioxidants and fatty acids, oats contain a soluble dietary fibre which lowers levels of LDL 'bad' cholesterol and improves glycemic control, making them not only a good choice for health but also weight management.

A spokesperson for Weetabix told bakeryandsnacks.com that consumers traditionally associated oats with hot cereals such as porridge and that Oatibix was designed for people who didn't have the time to make it but wanted the resulting health benefits.

Oatibix bitesize comes in sultana and apple flavour and, as well as benefiting from a high oat content, contains added prebiotics to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.

The Weetabix Food Company which owns brands such as Ready Brek, Alpen and Weetos holds an 8 per cent share of the total UK cereal market and has annual sales over £89m (€130.56)

It produces 8m Weetabix biscuits a day from its central factory in England and, according to market information group TNS Worldpanel, is Britain's fiftieth best known brand.

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