High ice cream sales, thanks to last year's hot summer, have boosted the sweet sauces category, which is up 4.8% in value to £28.1m [ACNielsen MAT to 17 June].

"The category is highly seasonal and is very much driven by hot weather," says Simon Bell, retail director at Merchant Gourmet. "It is also an impulse-led market, which responds well to promotional support. Children's pester power also plays a part, with ranges such as Silver Spoon's Treat and Lyle's doing well."

Sweet sauces are also proving popular outside the desserts sector, according to Tate & Lyle, which claims the most significant and fastest growing topping usage is its Lyle's Golden Syrup on hot cereal. "The growth of porridge consumption has been the biggest influence, with usage of Lyle's Golden Syrup with porridge up 48%, demonstrating the versatility of a brand that can be enjoyed with a variety of everyday foods," says Alison Ashman, senior brand manager.

In the approach to Christmas, Tate & Lyle recently launched a limited-edition seasonal range. The company claims the newcomer is the first flavour launch in the market since last year.

The sweet sauces sector is also benefiting from the trend toward healthy eating, says The English Provender Company, which is rebranding its desserts sauces range. "However, as the media has reported, when people eat healthily, they still like to treat themselves sometimes," says Bell.

Stocks Granules are growing fast

The £74m stocks market climbed 3.5% in the past year, boosted by strong performances from liquids and granules. The latter had a particular good year, up 34.7%, while liquids clocked up a 16.8% year-on-year increase [ACNielsen MAT to 15 July 2006].

Although losing share to liquids and granules in recent years, cubes continue to lead the stocks market, claiming an 83% share.

Says Marta Statella, business group operations manager at Unilever UK Foods: "Knorr Simply Stock is the fastest-growing brand in stocks, increasing in value share almost fivefold. Own label liquid, Knorr Granules, Oxo real stock and Knorr Touch of Taste are all in double-digit growth."

Unilever UK Foods recently gave its Knorr range an overhaul, including a redesign. Aimed at clear differentiation, the updated packaging is an eye-catching yellow and features a shiny foil stock cube on the front.

Statella adds that there is scope for even more growth from granules and liquids. Beef, chicken and vegetables are the leaders, with vegetables showing the largest value sales growth, up 11% year-on-year [ACNielsen 52 w/e to 15 July 2006].