Hovis stormed into pole position in The Grocer’s 2009 Top Products Survey chart, with the biggest growth in value of all the products across 76 key categories.

Sales of Hovis loaves soared £56.9m, up 14.6% on last year to £445.8m ­ winning market share as the total bread category managed only a £49.7m increase in total.

Hovis’ resurgence, after a paltry 1.9% growth in 2008, meant it took the crown of biggest riser from rival Warburtons, whose growth slowed to 0.9%, narrowing the gap between the loaves to £135.8m from £187.8m last year.

In a year own label was predicted to flourish, Hovis was one of a number of big brands to put in strong performances ­ while own label lost market share.

Other big winners this year included Heineken UK’s Foster’s and Strongbow, Danone Activia yoghurts, First Cape wine and Cadbury’s Wispa.

The growth demonstrates the dramatic impact advertising and promotions can have. Hovis launched a nostalgic sequel to its blockbuster ‘Go on Lad’ ad in June, this time featuring a young girl. Foster’s, which leapfrogged Carling to take second place in the lager league, also went for consumers’ emotions, albeit with a more humorous advertising approach.

“Since 2003, marketing has been very functional, focused on the benefits of cold lager,” said Mark Gerken, MD of off-trade at Heineken UK. “This year it changed its marketing tack. Now Foster’s is benefiting from a more emotion-led platform with Get Some Australian In You.”

Heineken stablemate Strongbow was able to build on the continued popularity of cider and perry. The category grew 16.4%, assisted by the 21.9% increase in sales of its biggest player. Walkers crisps demonstrated that consumer engagement is key, with its Do Us A Flavour contest contributing to a £38.6m uplift in sales.

In the already heavily promoted wine category, First Cape showed the strategy’s efficacy. The South African brand was the second-biggest promoter across all alcohol, despite sitting sixth in the Top Products wine table, and saw a 79% sales uplift coinciding with a 200% increase in featured space promotions [Assosia].

And despite a defensive approach taken to NPD by many brands in the recession, two of the biggest sales rises came from newcomers ­ Ariel Excel Gel and the re-released Wispa.

Sainsbury’s trading director Mike Coupe confirmed Ariel Excel Gel and Wispa had been two of the most successful launches of the year. “Wispa has worked particularly well for us,” he said.

Ariel Excel Gel hit £35m in its first full year through tapping into environmental concerns. The Turn to 30 campaign enabled consumers to feel they were doing their bit, without sacrificing cleaning results.

However, the success of Excel Gel appears to have come at the expense of the rest of the Ariel portfolio, with value falling across every other format.

Ariel wasn’t the only brand to see values fall ­ Gallo wine tumbled £36.3m, Pork Farms fell £30.1m, while Wrigley Extra and Innocent were hit by declining sales of chewing gum and smoothies.

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Top Products Survey 2009 (19 December 2009)