Plastic pouches, glass jars and student-friendly tins abound in the cooking sauce category. Research from leading brands, including Napolina and Loyd Grossman, indicates it is not so much the pack format, though, as the visibility of the contents that is important to consumers. Shoppers like to see the sauce before they buy and then seek a size to suit the occasion.

While glass jars are hugely popular, pouches are increasingly used to target convenience shoppers. "Consumers have become used to seeing sauces in jars where, unlike newer formats, they can see at a glance the consistency and quality of the product," says Remmelt Jongkind, marketing director for Napolina. "Sauces in glass jars are almost all cooked on the hob and allow cooks to add their own ingredients, unlike microwave pouches."

If the onus is so firmly placed on content visibility, formats such as pouches with see-through panels should also prove popular. Premier Foods has chosen the pouch format for its Loyd Grossman pour-over sauces and the company confirms that the pouch continues to compete within premium as a convenient and successful format. "When consumers shop for cooking sauces in c-stores, they demand premium brands they know and trust," says Sue Knight, general manager for pickles and sauces at Premier Foods.

Convenience is definitely key in this category. Consumers purchase a cooking sauce in place of making their own from scratch. The format should be easy to store, easy to open, and ideally provide additional convenience such as resealable or microwaveable packs.

"The category is at a life stage where we need to challenge what else can be done with a jar of sauce," says Ben Johnson, marketing director for The Grocery Company, which is responsible for Nando's, Cranks and Wagamama. "Innovation is more than new recipes and subtle packaging changes - it's bringing something totally new to market."

A packaging standard is being developed in chilled sauces, with Duchy Originals and Tideford adopting the round, clear, PET pot format.

This provides uniformity in the sector, which will initially help consumers identify chilled products, but ultimately differentiation in the form of high-quality imagery and a range of sizes helps brands stand out.

Ambient sauces are popular in c-stores because they don't require valuable refrigerator space. Jars and pouches of cooking sauces are typical grab-and-go purchases for time-pressed consumers.

Dolmio recommends that retailers pushed for space stock a small selection of larger family-size jars, smaller jars for singles and couples and a range of microwaveable pouches.

Jars larger than 500g are growing in popularity. Loyd Grossman's two 660g Italian SKUs - tomato & basil and tomato & chilli - are delivering 20% of the brand's Italian sales and are growing at 28% each year, according to Premier Foods.

The popularity of the format has led the brand owner to consider extending its range of larger jars.n