The Grocer's Top Products Survey 2006, based on ACNielsen research, reveals that, despite being blamed regularly for the nation's obesity, manufacturers have heeded demands for healthier products by reformulating mainstream lines and innovating in functional foods.
Of the 52 sectors covered by our report, 38 have shown growth, ranging from a 0.6% rise for canned fish to a 19.2% leap for juices and smoothies. This was mainly down to phenomenal growth from Innocent Smoothies, PJs and Minute Maid and a strong performance from Tropicana, dominant in the top slot.
Among the biggest markets, alcohol - now worth more than £11.5bn - was up almost 2%, with Magners' 539% rise making it the star performer, while tobacco was static at £9.3bn. Total soft drinks now top £5.4bn, while chocolate confectionery fell 0.9% to £3.1bn - which, in light of this year's hot weather and Cadbury's salmonella scare, could be seen as a triumph - with Dairy Milk's 0.5% growth the surprise of the year.
Frozen food dropped from £2.3bn to £2.2bn despite an effective ad campaign and impressive performances from Birds Eye fish and pies. The brand's ready meals plummeted.
Of the 14 declining sectors, five are in frozen food, two are canned. Of the others, apart from RTDs, which fell 12.7%, only sugar confectionery and cooking sauces fell by more than 2%. Casualties included Viennetta's frozen desserts, which dropped 20.8%, and Del Monte's canned fruit, which dropped 18.6%.
The arrival of Coke Zero for body-conscious 'blokes' alienated by diet options helped Coke cement its position as the nation's biggest food and drink brand, with a rise of 5.3% to £931m.
PepsiCo also managed to turn last year's decline for its market-leading Walkers' standard crisps line into a 3.7% uplift, following a reformulation and a switch to healthier Sunseed oil. Health is still the key ingredient for success, with functional products - such as Danone Bio Activia probiotic yoghurt, up 81.5% - and health-oriented categories such as bottled water leading the charge.
"This is an industry built on responding to consumer demands and it does a really good job," said a spokesman for the Food and Drink Federation. "Whether it's indulgence products for a treat at the end of the week, everyday products or functional products - suppliers will respond, reformulate and innovate."
There is also an emerging trend towards 'naturalness': products - often very traditional ones - that consumers see as wholesome and nutritious. The trend is seen in the 9.7% growth for bread, 3.6% uplift for cheese, and 2.5% rise for cakes.