Spag Bol has always been the great British Italian meal and, despite the plethora of alternatives available, its popularity shows no sign of abating.
Loyd Grossman reckons there's plenty more mileage in this old favourite too, as his latest assault on the premium pasta sauces sector shows. Claiming a 24.3% value growth year-on-year, the brand earlier this year launched into the burgeoning £68.5m bolognese sub-sector with a sauce that buys heavily into Grossman's concentration on authenticity by pushing the use of classic' ingredients such as red wine, celery and carrots.
Grossman says of the company's continued success: "Our thing is we never do anything unless we strongly believe we can do it better than anyone else. That's what drives our new product development. The brand was created to reflect my enthusiasm for food, everything else flows on from that and all our new product launches are based on that. At the moment the big product development is bolognese. We wondered what we could bring to the sector ­ it's a large, crowded area and there wasn't a good, high quality sauce on the market. So we worked and worked on it, probably for a couple of years, because we will take however long it takes to get something right."
He believes his brand is still the fastest growing in the premium sauces arena and says that, even when the company has not advertised, consumer loyalty has ensured word of mouth continues to bring in more converts.
"It's not a big intellectual problem. We have a really amazing relationship with our consumers through the website and phone lines and we feel very close to them," says Grossman.
At the moment, the brand is concentrating on quality and Grossman says this is the reason he is continuing to steer clear of the organic route.
"What consumers want is really high quality food with no junk added and I think that's a stronger proposition than organic. An organic sauce can be very good but I think, at the moment, the market wants really good quality and good taste and I don't think you get that through organic. It takes a long time to get things into organic production and there's been a big increase in the amount of organic product on the shelf, but in terms of ambient I don't think organic has made a significant mark. If I become convinced we can source the sort of organic quality we want that's fine, but at the moment we're more concerned with quality."
When asked who he reckons is the brand's nearest rival, Grossman claims to have no idea. But he may have to rethink that with the impending launch of Discovery Foods' New York Italian Big Flavour pasta sauces.
The company, best known for its Mexican offerings, has branched out into the pasta market with five new sauces sourced by founder James Beaton in New York.
"We went to America to see what was happening in terms of food trends and one of the meals we had included Creole pasta and jambalaya pasta. That opened our eyes to the fact that the Americans are doing some really revolutionary things."
The January 2003 launch of the range will be supported by a £2m press advertising campaign and Beaton thinks Grossman's consumers are exactly the type who will be drawn to his new product. "Loyd seems to be the big star of the Italian category and he's not trying to be different to the next brand. The type of people who are buying into his brand are likely to buy into ours ­ particularly adults with teenage children who like a spicier, fuller flavour."
The big and bold flavours' in the range will be Tomato and Aromatic Basil, Sundried Tomato and Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Smoked Chilli, Tomato and Roasted Peppers, and Hot Pepper and Cheese, which Beaton says will fulfil a consumer need "for big and intense flavours".
He adds: "There's a uniqueness about what we're doing and the supermarkets are aware that there has been too much duplication in the Italian fixtures." Reaction from buyers at the major multiples has been enthusiastic, he says, with "full scale listings agreements from most of the major multiple groups already well into the pipeline".
The range will sell for an rsp of £1.65 for a 350g jar.