The market's booming in the independents. Ann Bruce finds out what's selling and why Jeff Roberts, proprietor JA and MC Roberts Week St Mary, Devon Roberts runs a c-store and post office in a tourist area, so he is at his busiest in the summer. During the school term his daily rush begins when pupils head for home. Off peak, his customers are of all ages. "We sell jars and packets and sachets of pasta sauce ­ all ambient ­ and dried pasta. "We also do Richmond and Bowyers chilled pasta products, the quick snack ones are popular. "Dolmio is our most popular brand overall ­ particularly the bolognese sauce. "The nearest supermarket is six miles away so people are quite keen to shop with us for substantial items like pasta. We stock all sorts of dried varieties ­ spaghetti, shells and so on. We mainly sell our supplier's P&H Lifestyle cut-price brand. "Sales of pasta have certainly increased in the last few years. It is still much more popular with the younger end of the market. Older people tend to think it is a load of muck. "People seem to do all sorts with pasta ­ they ask me for advice about whether they can eat it with potatoes, mix it with soup, all sorts." Eamon Maher, proprietor Hazlemere Food Hall, Park Parade Centre, Hazlemere Maher runs a 13,000 sq ft multi-purpose store which caters for A and B group customers, from children to the elderly. "The shop is half full of pasta ­ it takes up 20 linear feet! "We have 199 different sauces on offer. They call us the Delia Smith store of the neighbourhood. Speciality pasta is becoming more and more popular with customers. "We've had a chilled section for four years ­ and an 80ft run of cabinets. We have all the major brands and sauces ­ particularly the Pasta Reale fresh range. We have 10 types of Pasta Reale sauces, and stock their filled pasta as well. "We do all the ambient jars too ­ Dolmio, Ragú, Classico, and the cheap Pasta Gold brand. "Traditional Ragú and Dolmio Original are still the bestsellers - although variations with garlic and wine are beginning to take off a bit more. "Sales of pasta have gone up enormously in the last years. All age groups are buying pasta ­ younger people tend to be a bit more experimental, though, and keen to try new products. "People don't tend to ask for recommendations on the pasta, but they ask staff about the chilled sauces." Manoj Jagatia, proprietor Victory Stores, Victory Road Coventry Jagatia runs a convenience store near a factory, a school and a university ­ a varied customer base. "We don't do chilled pasta yet, just dried pasta and jars of sauce. "Sales of pasta have gone up recently, everyone buys it. Our bestseller is pasta twists. "The instant pasta Taste Breaks are really taking off, too. "Our bestselling sauce is Dolmio Original. "Students in particular are quite experimental with pasta, it's the new potato." Mohammed Iqbal, proprietor Sami Bros, Main Road Cumbernauld, Glasgow Iqbal runs a c-store on a main road which picks up passing trade and local customers. Located half a mile from the nearest supermarket, customers come for a reasonable amount of shopping Iqbal says. Alcohol is the bestseller. "On the pasta side we just stock dried pasta and ambient jars. "Sales of pasta have gone up ­ a typical consumer is middle-aged. Certainly more young people than old people are buying pasta though. "Dolmio is our key sauce brand, but the instant Bachelors macaroni and tomato and onion pasta goes down well." Joan Wallsger, proprietor Mill Stores, Brand End Road Butterwick Wallsger runs a village store which has hit hard times because the major mutliples Tesco, Asda and Somerfield, plus Aldi and Kwik Save, have opened up in the area. "We have a very limited range of pasta because we can't hope to compete against supermarket prices. We stock dried pasta ­ twirls, shells, lasagne and spaghetti. We also stock packets of dried sauce mixes and a few jars. Jars don't go fast because of the prices again. Dolmio Original is popular as is Colman's pasta sauce. "We find pasta appeals to all age groups, but older customers probably don't buy as much as the younger ones. "People know what they want ­ they tend not to ask for recommendations." Richard Boll, manager Spar Culverhouse Cross Michaelston Road, Cardiff Boll runs a convenience outlet located near Cardiff University student halls of residence. "We have a lot of student customers. Sales of pasta are going well, we have quite a big range and we are about to bring in Spar own label chilled pasta sauce and pasta. "We already have a 4m chiller so we will squeeze the new products into that. "Dolmio is our bestselling jar ­ the original version. We do Spar own brand pasta - the spaghetti and twirls. "Younger people buy the bulk of the pasta, but it also appeals to an older age range. "People don't ask for recommendations ­ they know what they want." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}