Gone are the days when vegetarian lasagne and macaroni cheese were the most exciting vegetarian products available on supermarket shelves. Manufacturers are now offering increasingly adventurous choices in the vegetarian sector to tempt both hard-core vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

One product to do really well in 2006 was falafel. ­Cauldron Foods launched both falafel bites and spinach and ricotta falafel bites into the chiller section in 2006. "Consumers are increasingly looking for interesting ingredient combinations," says Jeremy Hughes, trade marketing controller for Premier Foods. "Our range of Spinach and Ricotta Falafel Bites has struck a chord with consumers and performed well."

Also launching a falafel product in 2006 was Mediterranean Foods, which introduced frozen falafel pieces just before Christmas - its first product in the frozen sector.

In September Sainsbury's launched a new range of ready meals called Designed not just for Vegetarians. The nine-strong range, which includes products such as sweet potato and goats cheese burgers, Moroccan-style vegetable tagine with couscous, and vegetable Malaysian curry with noodles, is designed to appeal to both meat-eaters and vegetarians.

It also features dishes with both meat substitutes and with vegetables and pulses in place of meat. Unbelievably, vegetarians can now even tuck into V Pud, a completely vegetarian black pudding, launched in Booths stores in November by the Real Lancashire Black Pudding Company.

The sector is also reaping the benefits in the growing trend for cooking from scratch - Premier Foods last year launched Quorn tandoori pieces, for instance.

The Redfood Wholefood Company launched Cheatin' Chicken Style Pieces and Cheatin' Vegetarian Mince under its Vegideli brand in 2006. Both products have done well, entering the group's top 10 bestsellers list, according to Keith Scott, MD. It is planning similar launches across all three of its brands - Cheatin' Meats, Cheezly and Vegideli - at IFE07 (the international food & drink event) in London next month.

Cranks also cashed in on the scratch-cooking surge. In May it launched a range of six prepared vegetable products including stuffed field mushrooms, traditional roasting vegetables and baby Charlotte potatoes in Booths and Budgens stores.

In August it also made its first move into ambient grocery with the introduction of a range of Cranks pasta sauces, including tomato, ginger & basil, sweet tomato & Italian bean and spicy pepperpot in Tesco.n

Topics