Recent innovations in rice and noodles have delivered strongly against two of the main consumer needs in this category: quality and consistency in product texture - particularly from rice, which many people are unable to achieve when boiling grains.

Products that involve steam-cooking from frozen also provide greater convenience, coupled with improved rice quality and fresh flavours. Both a Tesco rice option and a later Birds Eye entrant with a high vegetable content achieved category-topping scores, driven by high ratings on taste, texture and value for money.

Range additions from Pot Noodle and Batchelors Super Noodles, incorporating lower fat and salt levels, generated increased levels of consumer approval, although broader health concerns with processed foods of this type remain.

Sharwood's launch of a premium twin sachet format of pre-cooked noodles plus liquid sauce recorded above-average ratings, particularly among the target under-35s.

New Covent Garden Risotto - Wild Mushroom SCORE: 34 AVERAGE: 35

Chilled prepared rice foods traditionally perform poorly, but this rice proved to be authentic and appealing in consistency, although risotto still remains

very much an acquired taste.

Sharwood's Noodle Box Cantonese Chow Mein SCORE: 29 AVERAGE: 25

Pre-cooked noodles with Chow Mein Sauce appealed to younger pre-family respondents, who awarded a score of 38. Older tasters were less impressed with the texture of the noodles.

Tesco Steam Rice Pilau Rice SCORE: 49 AVERAGE: 34

This frozen Pilau rice, ready in four minutes, proved a winner, being 'well separated' as well as 'aromatic' and 'tasty'. Four 200g bags for £1.29 pushed value perceptions into the top quartile.