The ambient wet cooking sauce market grew 3.8% last year to £459m, primarily because buyers are purchasing more packs in a year. The total number of packs purchased in a year is up 4.6% to 22.6 packs per person.

This growth is down to a combination of consumers increasing their basket size (up 2.1%) and also buying 2.5% more often. There has been a slight increase in the number of people purchasing, with 84% of GB households having bought ambient wet cooking sauce in the latest year.

The 5% growth in Italian sauces means that the sector now has a 50% share of the total market. The strongest growth has come through Mexican, possibly as a result of an increase in popularity of meal kits.

Mexican has 9% more consumers buying than last year, with 19.2% of British households purchasing. The decline of traditional sauces has been due to fewer buyers buying into the sector.

As with the total grocery market, Tesco is a key player in ambient wet cooking sauces - with nearly a third of sales coming from Tesco shoppers. Asda performs beyond its expected share, with the category over-represented when compared with total grocery sales. This is probably because the category's mainstream family appeal fits well with Asda's core shoppers.

Together with complementary markets such as pasta, which approximately 80% of the British population buys into, it is likely that further growth of the ambient wet cooking sauce category will come through increased basket size or premiumisation rather than through the addition of new shoppers.

This is reflected in the relatively low levels of innovation within the market: manufacturers are exploiting opportunities to improve the quality perception of sauces rather than reinventing the wheel.

They are doing this by looking at more organic/premium ranges and also sauces targeted specifically at children.

With a growing consumer interest in health, the presence of vegetables within sauce is an area of particular interest - especially with the opportunity to disguise vegetables within children's meals, as children are notoriously reluctant to eat them.

Simon Coker, TNS Worldpanel