Shelf clutter in the pasta aisle prompted Heinz to scrap half of its character licensed products range last year, leaving a clearer category of classic licences, which include Disney Princess and Dora the Explorer.

The company stresses that it will continue to launch lines if they have enduring popularity.

This month, Heinz aims to boost interest in soup with a Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest promotion on multipacks of its Cream of Tomato Soup.

The promotion offers three holidays to the Caribbean and 750 DVDs.

With health in mind, Heinz has changed the recipe of its canned spaghetti for the first time in 80 years, with the introduction of multigrain pasta. It has also added Omega-3 to certain lines for children.

Crosse & Blackwell's character pasta, produced by Premier Foods, has gained shelf-ready tower pack formats aimed at tidying up shelf space as well as creating a more impactful display.

Premier Foods recently added The Simpsons to its canned range, which was given a relaunch and makeover last month.

The new look includes a healthier recipe containing wholewheat pasta, no artificial additives and controlled salt and sugar levels.

Yet not everyone is impressed with manufacturers efforts.

"The canned pasta market is saturated and there is little innovation. It would appear that major players simply substitute one brand for another, and it is purely driven by licensing," says Andrew Levy, MD at Licensingpages.

According to Levy, NPD in the market is fairly static, with the key developments being the reduction of salt, artificial colours and sugar.

"All these factors are being driven by the licensors because they do not wish their brands to be associated with products which fall outside the guidelines."

It is a similar story in yoghurt, although Nestlé, which also has Bratz, Super-Man and Winnie the Pooh lines, this year produced a Chicken Little fromage frais with a yellow 'yolk' centre.

Innovation in yoghurt has in the past included free toys being given away in false lids, but this has disappeared due to the high cost.

"Again, the chiller cabinet offers little scope for margin flexibility and so licensing is not as prevalent as it once was. Character licensing in this sector is now in decline," says Levy.

Elsewhere, the ready meals sector has taken a hammering due to the high salt levels of some products.

There are licensed products, such as Oriental Express Scooby-Doo meals for children, but the category is yet to be fully recognised by licensors.n