Cooking sauce GettyImages-1219736177

The past year has been one of both challenge and opportunity for cooking sauces. On one hand, Brits are cooking at home less and eating out more in the wake of the pandemic.

Category volumes have dived 9.9% as a result, with all top 10 brands in decline. They’ve sold 11 million fewer kilos. “Growth has been hard to come by for brands this year,” says NielsenIQ senior insights analyst Adam Paulson.

On the other hand, an opportunity has arisen towards the end of the year. As consumers tighten their belts, brands look to be banking on another home cooking boom.

Hence the launch of the Premier Foods’ ‘Best Restaurant in Town’ campaign in August, including a website that shows how to make meals costing less than £1 per portion. It features brands such as Loyd Grossman and Sharwood’s, which have seen volumes decline 8% and 17.6% respectively.

The push taps the growing desire to make “smarter swaps in order to reduce luxuries and additional spending”, says Premier brand director Andrey Sokirkin.

Similarly, number one cooking sauce brand Old El Paso – whose volumes have declined 7.9% – linked up with Coca-Cola and El Jimador tequila to offer bundles intended to “support in-home, occasion-driven moments”. The Coca-Cola bundles were in Tesco in May, Co-op in June and Sainsbury’s in September, while Old El Paso and El Jimador benefited from co-placement in Sainsbury’s for Day of the Dead in October.

“With the squeeze on household budgets, the need to be adventurous with in-home meal solutions has ramped up,” says Old El Paso head Aditi Hilgers.

The world food aisle has a particular opportunity as consumers look for adventurous and “exciting dinner options that make them feel like they’re eating out”, she adds.

Indeed, of the handful of top 100 brands to enjoy volume growth, more than half offer flavours from further afield than traditional Italian sauces – a continuation of the trend for more experimental home cooking that gathered pace in the pandemic.

Take Cuzena, which launched a range of Middle Eastern marinades in October to create dishes that are both meat-free and “naturally healthy”.

That health trend prompted Sharwood’s to extend its Reduced Sugar Stir Fry sauces range this year, with Oyster & Spring Onion, Teriyaki and Hoisin lines. They aim to “meet increased demand for products that cater to health and lifestyle choices around reduced sugar and meat-free diets, particularly in the world cuisine aisle”, says a spokeswoman.

Sounds like a recipe for success.

Top Launch 2022

Heinz Pasta Sauce | Kraft Heinz

Heinz pasta sauces

In February, Alexandra Bayet of Heinz’s new ventures team apologised for the “ridiculously late” launch of its first pasta sauce in the UK. Given the brand’s expertise in tomatoes, the range certainly seemed like a logical progression. It comprises four core variants, such as Tomato Sauce for Bolognese and Sundried Cherry Tomato & Basil, and three “exploratory” recipes, including Tomato & Lentil Ragu. There’s no added sugar, and all but Mascarpone & Grana Padano Cheese are vegan.

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