Flavours are expressly oriental, which is driving the sector, while Indian has high hopes for regional variations Ethnic cook-in sauces is one of the most popular destination categories, yet in terms of value sales the sector is performing less vibrantly than the rest of the ethnic market. Latest TNS Superpanel figures show the £202m sauce market gaining 7%, compared to the overall ethnic market's oustanding 13% uplift. "The culprit is Indian sauces, a large sector which has fallen in value by 0.6% due to the heavy promotional deals and aggressive pricing in standard products. Effectively, this has reduced value in the category," says category marketing manager Eamon Marren of Hazlewood Sauces and Pickles which manufactures own label for several multiples. The amount sold on deal is reckoned to average 40%, rising to 60% in the case of one leading manufacturer. Patak's sales and marketing director Alison Cannon, who says value has dived a further 2% in the past two months (ACNielsen), believes a lack of innovation in Indian sauces over the year ­ partly the result of cash diverted into promotions ­ has had a detrimental effect. The company, which has a near 20% share of the ambient market (ACNielsen) and has been aggressively developing more vibrant aspects of the Indian market, has put its npd efforts back into sauces and just launched an organic Balti. The segment which shows the most potential is regional sauces. "It's driven by the vogue for high class Indian restaurants which serve more esoteric recipes," says Cannon. "We expect consumer demand to grow as the trend filters through." Fixtures are starting to burgeon with these sauces. Sharwood's has added three regionally-inspired recipes to its standard range. And Geeta's Foods' six premium authentic regional sauces have listings in Safeway and Sainsbury, while selected lines from its new Curry Creations pastes are in Tesco and Sainsbury. Similarly, Nighat Awan chief executive of restaurant brand Shere Khan, says her 10 regional sauces are rapidly gaining listings in the multiples and the range is being expanded. The Indian market looks set for a boost after major launches from Loyd Grossman, which has brought out six classic premium recipes, and Tilda Rizzazz's five new gourmet sauces in pouch format. JK Foods, one of the major suppliers of authentic foods to Asian restaurants, also plans to shake up the sauce market with its launch of 15 sauces ­ five of them Indian, the rest oriental ­ under the Tiger Tiger brand. Oriental sauces are booming, however. "Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesia and especially Thai are all in double digit growth," says Hazlewood's Marren. "Black and yellow bean, hoi sin, plum and all the Thai sauces are the strongest performers." And brand manager Alison Barwell of Blue Dragon, which has a large oriental portfolio, says consumers are moving to more unusual flavours. "Flavour fusions are more evident, such as our highly popular oyster and spring onion," she adds. Oriental market leader Sharwood's says its oriental range is growing 26% year-on-year. "Most growth has come from Chinese New Year when we promote heavily to encourage trial," says brand manager Jonathan Gatwood. Another promotion, Wake up your Wok, is due in September. Sharwood's stir-fry sauces and bases have also performed strongly, says Gatwood, pushing the brand to number one in the oriental stir-fry sector. Tex-Mex is the fastest growing area in the market at 28%, fuelled by the spread of Tex-Mex restaurants, says Hazlewood's Marren. Key brands are Old El Paso and Discovery Foods. which has just introduced three fusion cuisine-style stir-fry sauces from California. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}