Unilever has removed artificial flavours, colours and preservatives from its Becel margarine brand in Canada, the latest consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand to turn to more natural ingredients.

“Canadians are saying that they want to see more transparency in the ingredients, they want ingredients that are more recognisable and simpler recipes,” said Valerie Rousseau, senior assistant brand building manager, Unilever Canada.

The change affects Becel Original, Buttery Taste, Olive Oil, and Vegan in Canada.

Rousseau said all its markets were moving through this recipe change at different rates, with Europe at the lead last year, as the recipe for Becel was different according to each market.

In Canada, the colour comes from beta-carotene, and flavours from buttermilk powder and other naturally-sourced proprietary flavours.

Artificial preservatives have been replaced with salt, which reduces shelf-life from seven to six months.

According to Marketing Magazine, several CPG giants have recently made commitments to remove artificial ingredients from their products.

General Mills has pledged that all its cereals will be free of artificial flavours and colours by 2017. Nestlé said last year that it would remove artificial ingredients from all its 250 chocolate products worldwide. And Kellogg’s has pledged to take out artificial ingredients from cereals and snack bars by the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, there has been fresh speculation over Unilever's spreads business, which was put into a stand-alone operating unit last year to improve performance, according to just.food.
"Spreads continue to be a drag on the overall foods performance,” CEO Paul Polman said after the publication of Unilever's 2015 financial results,

“We saw a decline of 5% as we have not been able to stem the ongoing market decline compounded by a 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."

The just-food report said Polman appeared to play down any suggestion of selling the unit, insisting selling it off at a bargain basement price would not create shareholder value.