Manufacturers operating outside the chutneys, pickles and standard table sauces categories have been busy ensuring that their products aren't forgotten during the year's key eating occasions.
The English Provender Company, for example, has made inroads into the barbecue sector with the introduction of four marinades - hot chilli, mango & coriander, tikka and smokey barbecue. The launch was supported with press advertising and in-store activity, with a further push planned in the run-up to Christmas.
Elsewhere, Kikkoman encouraged consumers to shake up their cooking by giving away 400,000 marinade and salad shakers with its bottles of soy sauce and teriyaki marinade. The brand also used a six-week television campaign to herald the start of the barbecue season.
Keen to cater for the health-conscious, Kikkoman also recently added a less-salt variant to its soy sauce range in view of the mauling that salt continues to be given in the national press. The new formulation has 43% less salt than the original soy sauce variant but, like the original, it contains no artificial colourings or flavourings.
Says Ben Briody, marketing manager of the company's UK operation: "Although soy sauce is a high-salt product, its savoury taste means no additional salt is needed in food where it is used. So, it is perfectly possible to reduce your daily intake of salt, without sacrificing the salty taste, by using soy sauce as a condiment. However, using the less salty version will obviously further reduce salt intake."
Meanwhile, the mustard sector, which has grown 3.8%, compared with a 2.9% drop the previous year [TNS 52 w/e 18 June 2006], has also been getting in on the speciality act. Says Terry Clennell, category product manager at The Co-operative Group: "There has been good growth in mustard sales, not only through English mustard, which is still by far the largest segment with a 69% value share, but also through speciality mustards, including wholegrain and Dijon. Brands such as Maille are behind this growth."
According to Maille, which has been producing authentic mustard since 1747, the brand has outgrown the total mustard sector, and is up 11% in value year-on-year.
Unilever UK Foods recently brought its Colman's mustard into the 21st century with the introduction of a squeezable pack. The launch formed part of a £2m investment, including a makeover for the brand.
"Not only will the introduction of Colman's Squeezable add value to the category, but the new packaging format has been specifically designed to appeal to younger males, therefore attracting new users," says Mike Miller, Colman's business operations manager.
It is not only the big players that are stamping their mark. Speciality players have also identified the sauce category as one in which they can add innovation, interest and diversity.
Atkins and Potts, for example, produces a range of sauces and condiments, including standard and white balsamic jellies, which can be used to accompany anything from meat and fish to cheese and strawberries.
Fine food distributor Bespoke Foods, meanwhile, claims that sauces from the US are having a massive impact on the UK market. Chief executive Piers Adamson says that with authenticity being a key driver, the US in particular is seen as the authority in barbecue-style sauces.
Adamson says that sales of Bone Suckin' Sauce, which Bespoke Foods distributes in the UK, have been very strong over the past year, with demand increasing for its Yaki sauce and mustard as well as its traditional hot sauces.n