The pace of innovation in the pasta sauce market has continued at a high level over the past 12 months.
But, reflecting the cooking sauce market in general, this has been fuelled by an increase in the number of branded entries from new suppliers, many not normally associated with the category.
This is a trend that has been evident since 2001 and while inevitable in a maturing market, it is also a reflection of the growing consumer demand for new and more interesting tastes not only for a weekend treat, but increasingly for the more adventurous to ring in the changes midweek.
Yet despite this fragmentation in tastes - more complex recipes of pasta sauces tend to be narrower in their appeal - consumer ratings have continued to reach the upper quartile for new introductions.
This is partly because even these pasta sauces, unlike other prepared cooking sauces such as curries, Mexican and Chinese-style recipes, are tomato-based and therefore relatively simple in construction. Consumers value these products for their convenience as standby items rather than for the delivery of a more complex ethnic recipe they could not easily make themselves from ingredients found in the home.
Recent entries into the sector have added a new level of recipe complexity that justifies a premium price tag, such as the introduction of more specialist ingredients, but the successful developments tend to keep within the realms of evolving consumer tastes.
Heinz’s Hot Pasta Sauce and Nando’s Peri-Peri Pasta Sauce are good examples of this trend, and both have achieved high levels of consumer approval in our tests. The Heinz Hot Pasta Sauce in particular performed well achieving a best rating among consumers with a score of 40, well above the category average.
The popularity of products such as these would also suggest that the category needs a constant flow of innovations to complement the established mainstream varieties if the sector is to continue to flourish and meet what is clearly a high level of demand for something different as part of consumers’ broader repertoire.
An authentic, rich sauce with a strong flavour of both cheese and tomato that clung well to the pasta. Too strong a flavour of Parmesan for kids and some respondents in the North.
Older testers couldn’t identify the flavours in the filling, but this fresh pasta to serve with a flavoured oil appealed to the pre-family group. Expensive, but should find a niche.
A strong performer, particularly among families with older children as an ideal midweek standby. Too hot for some, but delivered the expected level of heat for the majority.
This sauce had ‘a real kick to it’ that made it too hot for regular use, despite registering as mild on the ‘Periometer’. Most likely to find a market among pre-family respondents in the South.
Innovative tubs of fresh pasta and sauce. Popular among the under 55s, but this ‘easy to make yourself’ meal would only be an occasional purchase when strapped for time.
Enriched sauce with wild mushrooms and a ‘splash of vodka’ sounded exotic but was insufficient to justify a premium price. It proved to be ‘sloppy’ in texture and ‘artificial’ in taste; over 50% would never repeat buy once tried.
The pasta sauce market grows as consumers become more adventurous
Put to the test: six recent launches (maximum score 50)Sainsbury’s Italian Tomato & Ricotta Pasta Sauce Score: 39 Category average: 35
Waitrose Beef & Red wine Fiorelli with an Oregano Infused Oil Score: 29 Category average: 28
Heinz Pasta Sauce - Hot Score: 40
Category average: 35
Nando’s Peri-Peri Pasta Sauce - Roasted Reds Score: 37 Category average: 35
Giovanni Rana Fresh Pasta Meal - Spaghetti & Carbonara Sauce Score: 31 Category average: 28
The Sopranos - Vodka Siciliana Sauce Score: 24 Category average: 35
Produced for The Grocer by Cambridge Fast Foodfax, an independent standardised new product testing service where a sample of 50 consumers rate new products across 10 key performance measures. Maximum score 50. Details on www.fast-foodfax.com.