Unilever is reformulating its Becel margarine in Canada to be free of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

The move affects the entire Becel portfolio including Becel Original, Becel Buttery Taste, Becel with Olive Oil and Becel Vegan.

Unilever is marketing the move as using “simpler ingredients with recognisable ingredients”.

The firm said the product “still has all of the great benefits” of the previous Becel recipes.

At a time Unilever is struggling to lift its spread sales globally, the company added: “While Canadians often think of using margarine instead of butter for spreading, it’s important to remember that margarine can also be a great go-to for any recipe.”

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By GlobalData

There has in recent weeks been fresh speculation over Unilever’s spreads business, which also includes the Flora and Stork brands.

Last year, Unilever put its spreads business into a stand-alone operating unit in a bid to improve its performance. The unit – called baking, cooking and spreading – reports into Unilever’s food division.

Unilever’s global spreads sales fell 5% in 2015. Last month, it emerged Sean Gogarty, who headed up the unit, was leaving the group.

Speaking to analysts after the publication of Unilever’s 2015 financial results, CEO Paul Polman said: “Spreads continues to be a drag on the overall foods performance. We saw a decline of 5% as we have not been able to stem the ongoing market decline compounded by drop in butter prices. [2015] was a year of transition as we set up the new baking, cooking and spreads unit… It is still early for the unit and we will evaluate its course over 2016.”

Polman appeared to play down any suggestion Unilever is looking to offload the business, insisting selling it off at a bargain basement price would not create shareholder value. He explained: “We will continue to look at that to see if it is a good business for the company. We must continue to build shareholder value. I can get rid of this business tomorrow by giving it away to someone but that is criminal.”