Everyone loves Homepride, according to this year’s ads to mark the birth of the brand 50 years ago. Our numbers tell a different story: value sales of the brand’s cooking sauces are down 7.9%; volumes are down 8.4%.

To be fair, this is an improvement on last year, when value sales were down 9.7%, and this year’s numbers cover only the first few weeks after a £2.3m ad push kicked off in September, bringing brand mascot Fred back to our TV screens for the first time in a decade.

In contrast, Premier Foods stablemate Loyd Grossman is in far better shape. Value is up 1.8% and volumes 3.6%, thanks to the brand’s foodie credentials, the Express range of microwaveable pouched sauces and a promotional strategy that’s contributed to a 1.7% dip in average price in the past year.

Catering for those who want to eat meals tasting like they’ve been cooked from scratch, even if they haven’t, is key, says Jon Burton, category marketing manager at Premier Foods. “The definition of scratch cooking has evolved,” he says. “A growing number of consumers are opting for shortcuts to reduce the time and cost of ‘cooking from scratch’.”

cooking sauces

Examples of such scratch cooking shortcuts abound. Bisto’s cooking sauce growth is down partly to the launch of the Simply Casserole range, and Mars says it is looking to revitalise the Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s brands by focusing more on “recipe bases,” kits and products such as the Dolmio Stir-In range.

There’s no shortage of quick fixes from ethnic brands, either. Patak’s has overtaken Sharwood’s to become the biggest name in ethnic sauces, thanks in part to a campaign supporting its curry pastes, designed to give that authentic homemade curry taste without the hassle. Premier Foods hopes to revive Sharwood’s with its “Friday Take Over” ads.

Some are reappraising what a cooking sauce should be - traditionally, slopped over pasta, meat or veg from a jar - altogether. Princes partly explains Napolina’s hefty value loss on volumes down 42.2% with its decision to quit the pasta bake sauces sector. “Pour-over sauce has faced growing competition from sectors such as stir-through which is showing strong growth as consumers seek quick meal solutions,” says Napolina marketing director Dean Towey. “Our new range of regional stir-through sauces will strengthen our position and drive cross-category sales with our regional pasta shapes.”

That brands such as Uncle Ben’s and Homepride have so far stuck to pour-over products also explains their decline. Times have changed since Homepride launched Britain’s first cooking sauce in 1974. They still are changing, and the past year’s winners have changed with them. Homepride’s Fred will need to be busy in 2015 to convince the world he’s a modern man.

Knorr Flavour Pot

Top launch: Knorr Flavour Pots by Unilever

Okay, this isn’t a cooking sauce by conventional standards (Knorr isn’t in our table), but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of a place here.

Products that give that home cooked taste without the hassle are making a huge impact on traditional, jarred sauces.

In February, Knorr launched the Flavour Pots range, using patented jelly-based technology to add flavour to sauces without the need to resort to dried herbs or a jar. The pots (rsp: £1.59) have generated £3.3m since launch, says Unilever.