Authentic sauces are finding new favour as well known brands educate British taste buds. Jaq Bayles reports
Authenticity, quality and innovation are driving the £242m pasta sauces market as new consumers continue to buy into Italian cuisine and existing converts demand more experimental products.
But authenticity can be too much for some British palates, which is why one of the year's big success stories, Unilever Bestfoods' Bertolli brand, pitched itself at "the middle ground with familiar authenticity somewhere between Saclà ¡nd Ragu", according to Mike Miller, category manager, recipe sauces.
Miller says Bertolli is the UK's fastest growing pasta sauce with 335% value growth after extensive TV advertising. "The Bertolli brand is introducing a new audience to areas traditionally seen as too authentic and niche, such as pestos, resulting in 6.6% household penetration and a 5% share of the Italian recipe sauces market."
Following the initial launch, Bertolli introduced three new pasta sauce flavours which "are Italian in origin but familiar to the UK palate". Miller says: "The launch of Bertolli has shown that consumers are willing to try new recipes and products such as pesto if they are familiar or comfortable with the brand."
But other companies in this highly competitive market are sticking with authenticity as their watchword, and RH Amar, which produces the Cooks&Co range, suggests many sauces on offer have been "highly anglicised" and rely too much on artificial tomato flavourings. It says: "Today's consumers are better travelled and a lot more knowledgeable about the food they eat. This means that an authentic flavour is not only expected from sauces, it will be recognised and enjoyed for being a quality product."
And Steve Wrigley, md of Mediterranean Growers, which has bumped up its Salsina sauces offering to five, says the market is dominated by products that compromise authenticity. But the fact that bolognese continues to dominate the Italian sauces sector suggests a fair proportion of consumers remain reluctant to move away from what they know.
As a result, many manufacturers are focusing on introducing new flavours to the sector, including Sacl࠷ith its flavoured pesto range which it says is growing at 20% on last year. The company estimates the value of the pesto category at £14.4m and growing at 13%, with Saclࠣommanding a 57% value share [Information Resources 52 w/e August 11 2002].
Cirio claims to have broken new ground with its pesto range. It also launched a range of authentic Italian passatas in 500g jars. Pesto has also been the focus for G Costa, which launched three new variants. into its Zest range.