Pasta sauces have done particularly well in the recession, though consumers are trading down and switching to own label

Consumers take them for granted today, but 22 years ago you wouldn’t have found jars of cooking sauce on supermarket shelves in the UK. Today they are a staple, with pasta sauces in particular benefiting from their enduring popularity and ease of use – Dolmio owner Mars says penetration of wet cooking sauces has increased year-on-year as consumers demand convenience. It was also as a result of being cheaper that pasta sauces outpaced the sales growth of wet ambient cooking sauces by nearly eight percentage points and enjoyed volume growth of 2.6% compared with a slight decline in other wet ambient sauces. 

Heavy promotions played a part in the growth of the market – though not enough to prevent own label stealing share.

Sales of Dolmio, the market-leading brand, were up 18.1%. The relaunch of the Loyd Grossman range at the start of 2009 was also an unqualified success, with 29% growth and market penetration rising from “low teens to late twenties”, according to Premier Foods MD Will Carter, thanks to reformulation and trial-based promotion.

“Our success goes to show consumers don’t just want cheap; they want taste. While some of our rivals are engineering quality out of the value equation, we are going in the opposite direction, to good effect.”

One area that has suppliers and retailers excited is cooking sauces for making baked products – including pasta, vegetable and potato bakes – with one producer predicting “lasagne is set to become the new spaghetti”. Premier’s Loyd Grossman brand moved into bake sauces with its Al Forno range (see Top Launch), and Mars says it has also enjoyed success in the past year with its Dolmio lasagne sauces. “In terms of oven cooking, lasagne’s base sales have grown well,” says Mars. “Part of this is due to convenience as people can prepare a lasagne in 15 minutes, put it in the oven and go and do something else.”

Top launch: Loyd Grossman Al Forno range, Premier Foods
Thirty-two years ago, when he was at number 49 in the UK singles chart as the singer in punk rock band Jet Bronx And The Forbidden, Loyd Grossman probably wasn’t hoping he would one day help a cooking sauce brand move into the bakes market.

But here he is, seeing his Al Forno range capture 3% of the Italian bake sauces category within six months of its May launch, according to brand owner Premier Foods. How very rock’n’roll.

Top Products Survey 2009