Soup competition has been heating up, with big brand names muscling in on rivals' territory to grab a bigger helping.

The total soup market clocked up sales of £461.6m in the last year, a rise of 2%, boosted by healthy growth from the top four brands - Heinz Classics, New Covent Garden Soup, Batchelors Cup a Soup and Baxters Favourites - as well as an impressive rise of nearly 156% by the Prince of Wales's Duchy Originals brand. Health - the trend of the moment - is definitely on soup's side, and its convenience selling point is doing it no harm either.

The growth of chilled has not made much of a dent in the canned format, because the latter has a broader appeal. Pouches, though, are increasing in popularity. Some of the biggest losses are coming from dry soup, particularly brands such as Knorr that deliver a multi-portion offering rather than a single cup.

In an attempt to steal troubled Campbell's crown in cannedcondensed soup, Heinz came up with three of its own versions. It also flexed its muscles in the direction of number-one canned rival, Baxters, by adding 12 vegetarian varieties to its canned soup menu, as well as rolling out new packaging across its portfolio, all as part of a £7m drive.

Premier Foods rallied by pitching the Batchelors brand - which it acquired as part of Campbell's UK business - against Heinz in the stalwart's canned soup heartland. The resulting four-strong canned range was the first move by Batchelors away from its dry positioning.

A number of new names made the top 20 this year. Ainsley Harriott Cup Soup, Loyd Grossman and Seeds of Change featured at numbers 16, 17 and 19 respectively, all showing very healthy growth.

Much of soup's NPD becomes visible in the latter half of the year, as manufacturers gear up for the winter season. Baxters'new Choices single-serve pouch range looks like making an impact, while its bistro-inspired Chefs Selection cans harness interest in premium.

One noticeable piece of NPD came from Food Brands Group, which brought in self-heating technology, with a range called Mini Quick, which heats itself in 40 seconds.n