French spreads maker St Hubert has entered the country's soy product category with a range of desserts.
St Hubert Les Petits Plaisir Soja will launch across France in April. The range comprises six variants, including a natural line, a fruit-based product and a chocolate offering.
Speaking to just-food, St Hubert's marketing director, François Graffan, said there is a "clear demand for the products".
"The soy market is at +10.3% volume growth in 2014 when the dairy market was at -2%. The reason is that people are conscious food has an impact on their health and there is a way to find some alternatives to dairy and meat products to diversify their foods to have a better balance of their meals."
Graffan said taste tests of the new range had proved positive. The products contain vegetable proteins, calcium and vitamin D.
Asked if the move was prompted by pressure in the spreads market, Graffan said the move was instead more to do with the company wanting to capitalise on the St Hubert brand in a new category.
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"It is used by more than 16 million people in France. It is a very big brand with a strong name that has created a strong relationship with consumers. We have a very high level of loyalty, so now it seemed like a natural move to extend the brands and the franchise into other markets. The soy market is a very legitimate market for our brands."
Despite the challenges faced by the spreads market, St Hubert continued to perform strongly, he said. St Hubert was sold by Dairy Crest in 2012 to Montagu Private Equity for EUR430m (US$472.3m). Graffan said due to "several" innovations of the last two years including the launch of St Hubert Petit, a full chocolate based product, and an unsalted product, the brand has grown "more than one-to-two points in market share" in the last year.
"We moved from 29.4% of market share ten years ago to 39.9% market share in 2014 and even in 2014 we were still growing market share so we are regularly increasing our business. The main reason is the success of our brand St Hubert and the products we have behind that brand in France and Italy."