For the first time in years, the chilled desserts sector failed to achieve growth last year - but some companies are bucking the trend with indulgent treats and occasion products

Chilled desserts account for 29% of the total yoghurts and pot desserts category. Yet, for the first time in several years, the £445m sector failed to achieve growth last year, recording a 1.6% year-on-year drop in value sales [TNS 52 w/e January 29, 2006].

The decline is being driven by the poor performance of branded offerings, which hold a 37% market share, according to TNS, with branded mousse performing particularly poorly. The sector is also suffering from a lack of innovation and the widespread trend for healthy foods.

"We put the flagging sales in the category down to consumers becoming more health-conscious and the category lacking innovation," says James Averdieck, managing director of Gü Chocolate Puds.

Nevertheless, such a lack of innovation has allowed companies such as Gü to shine by being able to stand out from the crowd. As well as experiencing great success with its chocolate puds, last year the company also introduced a fruit-based brand called Frü to boost further the category's profile.

"We are seeing significant growth in treats and occasion products. Gü has grown 100% year-on-year, with a decline in general everyday offerings," adds Averdieck.

The Serious Food Company made its branded debut last month, and launched premium, indulgent desserts, which it says will raise the profile of the more traditional fruit puddings.

The company has launched well-known products, such as crème brulée, tiramisu, trifle, banoffee and key lime pies, which corporate development manager Stephanie Kean claims will raise the bar in a category in which there has been a lot of development for chocolate lovers but not much for anyone else.

"The desserts will be a hit with consumers looking for that special something but disappointed by what's currently available," says Kean.

The Serious Food Company wants to do for other puddings what Gü did for chocolate desserts, she adds.

Also hoping to cash in on the hunger for more indulgent products, Bonne Maman recently added a chocolate offering - Mousse au Chocolat - to its range of luxury chilled desserts.

And, according to brand-owner Andros UK, this is only the beginning, with a series of new lines scheduled to be introduced into the sector this year.

Recognising the need to shake up the everyday market, Uniq Prepared Foods, whose products predominantly sit in that sector, is working hard to make its menu more appealing to the ever-growing number of health-conscious consumers.

"Healthy desserts are in double-digit decline, which goes against the health trends we are seeing in the rest of the grocery market," says Hamish Renton, MD at Uniq's Paignton dessert factory.

"To rectify this, we are this year improving our core own label trifles and cheesecakes to make them healthier."

The company is reducing the sugar and fat levels as well as taking out all the hydrogenated fats in the products. It also says it will use only natural flavours and preservatives.

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Focus on Yoghurts & Pot Desserts (April 2006)