By Kelly Townsend
Avocado, anyone? Like it or not, the green fruit has dominated as a major food trend the last few years, to the point where avocado toast has became the unexpected mascot of healthy eating everywhere. Recognizing an opportunity, Unilever developed an avocado oil product for its major margarine brand, Becel.
“It’s important for us to continue modernize and rejuvenate the margarine category,” says Nicole Fischer, Senior Brand Manager, Baking, Cooking and Spreads at Unilever. “Avocado is extremely on-trend and, from our perspective, very heart-healthy, so it aligns with the Becel brand mission about healthy fats.”
It took roughly a year for Becel with Avocado Oil to move from research and development to landing on Canada’s grocery shelves. Workers had to carefully review the existing formula base to see how to incorporate avocado oil while maintaining the right balance of different types of fat and keeping Canada’s heart health claim on the packages.
Much of the motivation behind the product was based on a rich consumer need. Fischer says one in two Canadians don’t know how to add avocado oil into their diets, while many other Canadians indicated they don’t like the taste or texture of avocados, but still wanted the health benefits. “It’s one of the main reasons we wanted to give them an option from something they’re already cooking with.”
What has the consumer response been?
It’s been really positive. We’re obviously in early stages. We’ve had some of our launch events… we also have our TV communications, digital, and social. All of the pieces are coming to light. We’ve had a lot of people asking where they can find it, so we’re trying to make sure that ramps up. People see it as another healthy option for them to choose.
What are some common misconceptions about margarine when it comes to healthy eating?
There’s always the reference that it’s a processed product, so it’s inherently unhealthy. That’s the biggest misconception because, in fact, Becel is made of a blend of heart-healthy oils—Canadian-grown canola and sunflower oils, which are both rich in poly and mono-saturated fats. I think it’s about trying to educate Canadians about what is in Becel.
What do you think is most important about healthy eating?
I think, for me, it’s all about balance and customization. There’s no “one size fits all” for how to have a healthy lifestyle, which I think is part of what’s frustrating for consumers. In the media and brands it’s always something new: it’s all about low carbs, now it’s paleo, now high fat is a villain, and now sugar’s the villain. It’s confusing so having an approach of moderation and balance, back to basics, is great.
What has been your favourite food trend of 2017?
I think the move toward plant-based options has been really cool, and seeing plant-based alternatives across a number of different categories to provide more variety and choice. You see it more and more across grocery stores. And a lot of them are pioneered by Canadian companies, which is really inspiring.
Describe your go-to avocado recipe.
I’m a big avo-toast fan. I know it’s a pretty easy one. When I was pregnant with my son, every morning I would have toast, Becel, smoked salmon, and a fried egg. That was my personal avocado toast phase. But incorporating it into bowls is also cool. Becel has two quinoa-based bowl recipes where you really have flexibility to add a variety of ingredients. I also just eat it straight-up—my son basically eats half an avocado in every meal, so we have a lot of avocado in our house.