by Sheila Eggleston - sector tends to be impulse driven - the trend is for trading up - single fixture for sector urged - lively new product development Foot and mouth disease is causing chaos in the international meat markets. It's a tragic time for producers and their connected industries and consolation is hard to find ­ though anyone hungry for some good news out of the disaster might be persuaded to see it in the plentiful supplies of cheap meat that will probably result. Certainly, shortages were the order of the day as The Grocer went the press, but these are likely to be only temporary as the export ban pushes vast quantities of domestic product into the domestic market. Consumers tempted by meat bargains are certainly not short of ideas and products with which to enliven the barbecue these days, having an array of tips at hand whether from exotic holidays or cookery programmes. But barbies are not just about meat these days, with suppliers providing an ever growing range of fish and vegetarian options. Barbecuing is a big business, expected to reach £190m this year [ACNielsen], and recognised as having huge potential to increase sales through impulse purchases. Brian George, founder of National Barbecue Week and md of brand marketing group BMI, says: "While a certain degree of barbecues are planned, on the actual day it's more of a panic buy decision and products are bought on impulse. "It isn't a price sensitive market and is therefore a wonderful opportunity to encourage people to trade up, something that not all retailers have recognised." Premium sausages and burgers have driven growth and manufacturers are geared up for 2001 with more sophisticated flavours and bigger pack sizes to satisfy people prepared to pay more for quality and variety. A shortage of traditionally reared British pork because of the foot and mouth epidemic has meant Dickinson & Morris having to temporarily outsource pork from Europe. Its barbecue pack contains four extra large sausages made from pork and a blend of herbs and spices, and its latest is a pork with red Leicester cheese sausage. "The new one's potential is promising," says marketing manager Tracey Wilson. "It offers a branded flavoured premium sausage without duplicating own label varieties, and it will have universal appeal because of the inclusion of cheese and is less spicy than other sausages." Marketing agency G2K is behind the South Park Chef's premium collection, a spin-off from the irreverent TV cartoon show. This range offers mass appeal with the character Chef fronting a host of barbecue meat products from quarter pounder beef burgers and chicken burgers to Chef's love sausage, plus a jumbo sausage which is being launched in May. Dalepak claims a 10% share of the burger sector and 52% of the meat grill sector. Its flame grilled quarter pounder burgers, beefburgers and 150g flaming big burgers are all made with British beef. Its new product development programme carries on unabated with a host of new products and new packaging for 2001. To maximise sales, Birds Eye Wall's has worked closely with retailers to use barbecue meal occasions to drive growth of its burgers and grills. This year it will also be offering added value packs during the summer to promote growth. It claims point of sale material in key locations will motivate people to think about barbecuing even when they might not have done so. The weather clearly has an influence on sales, says the company, but by featuring frozen barbecue products it not only reminds consumers to buy for outdoor cooking, but even if the weather doesn't permit it, it means they remember to stock up. The best way to exploit barbecue-cum-summer occasions is to bring different categories together as a feature, such as in a cabinet containing meat and ice cream and, if space allows, fish and poultry as well. Sauces and marinades are the success story of the barbecue fixture with more exciting flavours and easy to use products coming on stream. "The days of the straightforward ketchup are over," says BMI's George. "The market has gone past that as UK tastes have become more adventurous." BMI's Bar-B-Bar range spans sauces, marinades, mayonnaise, salsas and dips, with its bestselling sauces being New Orleans and Out of Afrika. New for 2001 is the Essential BBQ Kit containing two sauces and a mayo line retailing for £5.99. Jenks, which has handled the Bicks brand since 1960, claims the North American heritage of the sauces is important to consumers. Bicks dominates the £8m relish sector with a 47.4% share but has only a small share of the barbecue sauce market. In response to research, it has planned its first press campaign in 15 years and a host of trade promotions to boost all-year-round sales, particularly of relishes. Product group manager Hugh Evans says: "We can't afford to take our eye off the ball. We will continue to focus on barbecue and will do everything to maximise sales, but we also want to have side of plate opportunities too. "We are also trying to encourage independents to move their stock around to take into account seasonality as well as more impulse buying." Jenks' latest development is a party pack of four of its bestselling Bicks relishes ­ hamburger, tangy onion, sweetcorn, and barbecue ­ which can be used on barbecue meats and also as dips. Discovery Foods, which has just opened its second state of the art factory in Daventry, says people are moving beyond plain sausages and burgers and want better cuts of meat and quality vegetarian food and, in turn, this is boosting demand for premium marinades and sauces. Brand manager David Osborne says: "Growth is driven by consumers' increased knowledge of barbecue cooking from TV and travel to faraway places such as the US and the Caribbean. Key calendar events have also had an effect. "Last year our sales doubled during the five hottest weekends, including June 17 when lots of people had barbecues to tie in with the England v Germany Euro 2000 match." Discovery's authentic range includes Texan, Cajun and Caribbean marinades and Sticky Ribs and Buffalo Wings basting sauces. Fish and vegetarian lines are, of course, areas of growth. Marr Foods is keen to capitalise this year with its frozen and chilled ranges of whole mackerel and tuna steak in Hoi Sin sauce, and salmon and tuna chargrills under the Buccaneer brand. The Seafood Company claims that kebab style shellfish products have become increasingly popular. MD Paul Byrne says: "Spicily flavoured, on-skewer shellfish products are very much in tune with the public's desire for exciting and tasty healthy options." Its range includes raw tiger prawns from Thailand on bamboo skewers either plain or tikka, garlic and herb, or red Thai flavoured. Its new £3.8m factory in Cromer, Norfolk, is expected to increase volume by 35% this year. Marlow Foods is making inroads into this market with its Quorn range of frozen meat free burgers and sausages, and vegetarian food specialist Goodlife Foods has pepped up its range of frozen nut cutlets and burgers with spicy organic bean burgers, vegetable burgers and Indian grills. It is also promoting nut burgers with a buy-one-get-one-free special at Safeway to promote trial. Vandemoortele sales and marketing manager Andrew Breeze says that retailers creating outdoor eating displays in store will reap the benefit of increased sales. The company is targeting barbecue users with a four strong range of low fat, extra virgin olive oil mayonnaise under the Belolive label ­ roasted garlic, sun dried tomato, pesto and original. Hellmann's mayonnaise in squeezy bottles is a must for barbecues, says Bestfoods. Business group manager Jackie Rooke says: "Mayonnaise sales in April usually increase 20%, and between April and August nearly half of all annual mayonnaise volume is sold." This summer it is promoting Hellmann's with money off coupons on packs of baking potatoes. French's mustard range, also in squeezy bottles, has been extended to include honey, Dijon and a spicy deli variety. This year giant gherkins are making their debut through Trustin Unimerchants. Under its new premium food brand Global Choice, it has launched Tasty Toppings ­ a 510g jar containing 15 slices of burger sized crunchy gherkins with a sweet and sour flavour. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}