Mexican sauces may be spicy, but their sales are definitely not, having fallen 4.4% in the past year by value and 11.1% by volume [Kantar]. But behind this figure lie two very different stories: Old El Paso and Discovery.

Old El Paso's sales have increased 13.8% by value and 7.0% by volume [IRI]. Discovery, meanwhile, has struggled, with value down 7.3% and volume down 21.7% and it seems to have dragged the overall sector figures down with it.

The brands have taken very different approaches. Andy Foweather, sales director at General Mills, which makes Old El Paso, says the thing to remember about Mexican is that it isn't all about the sauce. It's about what goes with it and the experience of eating it. "Mexican is far more diverse than just cooking sauces, which only constitute 17% of the Mexican category," he says. "While chilli con carne has its role, Mexican's social nature and range of meal centres such as fajitas and burritos give it its point of difference."

Discovery, like Old El Paso, offers a variety of Mexican sauces, accompaniments and kits, with Fajita Season and Sauce the best-performing product, according to senior brand manager Bev Taylor.

But unlike Foweather, Taylor believes that for some, it really is all about the sauce. "Sauces and kits have different consumers," she says. "The Fajita Season and Sauce was developed in such a way that it would take the labour out of making fajitas. Packed full of peppers and onion there is no need to cut veg. You just stir-fry in meat."

Discovery is now attempting to get sales back on track. At the beginning of the month, it started a Try Me Free promotion, which will run until the end of March. Once a customer has purchased a promotional product, they can send in an on-pack voucher along with their receipt to receive a full refund for the product.

And far from resenting its rival, Discovery is happy to compete. "There is room for both brands to drive growth in the coming years," says Taylor. "Consumers still want choice."

Focus On Cooking Sauces