Heinz is making its first foray into the £720m cooking sauce sector with a 'spread and bake' range it is confident will be able to take on Dolmio and Knorr.

Spread & Bake is being rolled out this month backed by a £1m launch campaign. It is being positioned as a "less overpowering" option to traditional cooking sauces as only a spoonful is necessary, according to Heinz.

Suitable primarily for chicken, but also for use with fish, other meats and vegetables, it is made with natural ingredients, is free from artificial additives and contains about 4g fat per serving.

"Families love the convenience of cooking sauces, but sometimes feel not only that the flavour doesn't get into their meat, but that it gets swamped and takes over the meal," said Caroline Clarke, marketing manager of Heinz Sauces.

"The difference with Spread & Bake is that it covers the meat when cooking, keeping it succulent and complementing its natural taste without drowning it."

The newcomer, available in Sticky BBQ, Mediterranean Tomato, Tikka and Moroccan falvours, is targeted at mums who want more variety when cooking meat. Each jar contains four to six portions and is priced £1.49.

The launch is part of Heinz's new strategy to breathe life into the sauces and condiments category and follows the launch last month of Deli Mayo, which it hopes will become a strong challenger brand to Hellmann's. However, this is Heinz's first initiative in wet cooking sauces, where it will go head-to-head with top brand Dolmio from Mars and Unilever's Knorr portfolio, including its Chicken Tonight range.

The marketing push for Bake & Spread kicks off late summer and will focus on educating consumers on how to use the products.

In the past 12 months Heinz has ramped up its focus on innovation, with this year's NPD pipeline on target to match 2007's 115 projects.

The Lea & Perrins brand is poised to be a focus of innovation later this year.