The range of pack formats is almost as varied as cooking sauces themselves. There are jars for premium, sachets for convenience, kits for authenticity, pouches for portion control and cans for students.
Jars dominate, as consumers like to see the contents. But the pouch has also started competing in the premium sector.
Asa Chamberlain, Nisaway category controller, says: “Jars still dominate. However, dry sauce sachets and pouches do offer good value due to size and, in some cases, have a more premium positioning.
“Pouches have worked well in conjunction with meal trends and when revitalising a category - for example, Amoy and its new Sensations range. I think the family will continue to favour jars, and pouches will become more dominant
Dolmio is strong in pouches and claimed a first in 2004 with its Express Bolognese Sauce pouch containing meat. It has since added two more variants. However, Homepride’s Olivia Hendrick says her company will continue to focus on jars. Historically, some 50% of its sales came from cans, but the format is skewed towards the over-45s and is also popular with students due to its good quality/price connotation. But, she adds: “Consumers like to be able to see their sauce - 90% of the category is jars and we do expect cans to bottom out.”
Suzy Ford, Unilever category strategy manager, doesn’t think consumers base their choice on pack format first. She says: “Choices are made on the best product to fit a need. Pouches work well for convenience, yet products have been launched in pouches that have not delivered well, unless - like Schwartz Real Pastes and Uncle Ben’s Express - they have been associated with a clear consumer benefit and brand support.”
Geeta Samtani, of premium Indian brand Geeta’s, has concentrated on using packaging to deliver authentic cooking methods. Its Spice & Stir sauces have a separate pot of dry spices, designed to give a more authentic flavour when cooking.
Moroccan brand Al’Fez’s new sauces also include a seasoning in which to stir fry the meat alongside its 140g sauce sachets.
Then there are boxes. Linda Hipkiss, General Mills marketing director, says Old El Paso Dinner Kits “have become vital for consumers who are unsure about Mexican”. She says the fajita version is the bestselling SKU in the ambient sector, worth more than £13m and growing at 16.3% year-on-year [IRI all grocery outlets 52 w/e December 3, 2005].