Led by Dolmio, suppliers have been driving new formats delivering convenient meal solutions for busy families

With busy parents spending less than 15 minutes preparing the average evening meal, even the convenience of pasta and sauce is not enough for some consumers.
The primary objective of the pouch is to cater for today’s time-poor consumers with its minimum fuss, maximum taste proposition. The introduction of microwaveable sauce and pasta pouches by Masterfoods’ Dolmio in 2002 created a new category and added value.
Dolmio has since injected further innovation through the launch of Bolognese sauce pouches in 2004.
Andy Patel, trade marketing manager at Masterfoods, says: “The UK relies heavily on convenience. Families want to sit down together to eat but due to lack of time this is often restricted to weekends.
Convenience is key but not if it involves compromising on health or taste.”
Tim Robertshaw, MD at Brand Partnership, which produces Crosse & Blackwell’s Pasta in 5 range of pasta and sauces, believes consumers are selective and “have rejected pouch pasta because of the perception that it does not meet their criteria on quality and value”.
Patel, however, believes microwaveable pasta pouches cater for the different needs of busy mums.
The Dolmio Express range is available in single-serve pouches to appeal to the growing number of single-person households, while larger sizes cater for two to three people. Both are ready in 45 seconds. Confirming planned investment of £10m in marketing initiatives for 2006, Dolmio has high hopes for its category. To maximise sales, Patel recommends that retailers should site both pasta and sauce pouches near to each other.
Dolmio’s domination of the pouch market remains unchallenged, although Neil Brownbill, marketing director at Princes International Trading, which owns the Napolina brand, says that the next step in Napolina’s strategy will be to consider targeting the ready meal market.
Unilever says that it is also considering entering with a convenient product, but stresses that it won’t just follow what its competitors do.
Julie Gilroy, Unilever’s category planning manager, says: “I don’t believe in doing ‘me-too’ products.
“We have no intention of doing microwave pouches like Dolmio’s; we would come into the market with something entirely different.”