oxo stock pot

Top launch: Oxo Stock Pots - Premier Foods

Not quite a sauce, not quite a stock, Premier Foods’ concentrated pots nonetheless have oodles of scratch cook appeal, and took Oxo into premium territory when they launched in August. Available in Rich Beef with Onion & Rosemary, Succulent Chicken with Garlic & Thyme and Garden Vegetables with Parsley & Bay (the beef and chicken flavours both have low salt variants), Stock Pots are intended for use in soups, casseroles, risottos and stirfries.

If the Dolmio puppets’ smiles have seemed a little forced this year, there’s good reason. The brand has lost more than £10m in sales. That’s a quarter of the sector’s loss. Ouch. 

Cooking sauces’ decline is not new (every Top Products since 2011 has charted value losses for the sector), but it is accelerating. A year ago we reported a £27.3m decline; now the sector is down £40.6m, chiefly driven by price cuts in response to the discounters.

“The discounters have a part to play as they’ve increasingly got big brands on offer,” says Budgens buyer Dani Al-Karaghouli. But he adds that Aldi and Lidl have been slow to take on new formats, largely sticking to traditional jarred sauces. “They fall down on the more exciting products and NPD. We have seen a rise in pouches and stir-ins.”

As have many. The few bright spots in the figures of the top 20 cooking sauces come courtesy of players aimed at time-pressed foodies and more hands-on home cooks who aren’t content with merely slopping a jar over some meat and veg of an evening.

Take Sacla’, up 4.1% thanks to the authentic cues of its pesto and the impracticalities of making it at home, says MD Clare Blampied. “Our Free From Basil Pesto has become our fourth bestselling SKU since launch,” she says, adding free-from is a growing focus.

The other top 20 brands in growth are also looking to appeal to more creative home cooks. Bisto has jumped a third partly as a result of its new Stock Pots (see below), and Schwartz is up 4.6% thanks to new launches in its Grill Mates range and increased distribution for its pourover and gravy products. Owner McCormick UK says increased marketing spend, up 60%, has boosted visibility.

With households getting smaller, bulky jars are getting canned. Napolina quit the pasta bakes market altogether in 2014 and is now supporting its Stir-Through Sauces, sold in 175g packs, with pasta shape matches and a YouTube cooking channel. It launched rustic style stir-through sauces in flavours including arrabbiata and puttanesca in October 2014.

Loyd Grossman has rolled out Pour Over Sauces, in 170g pouches, and single-serve flavour pot Pan Melts. “It’s important brands develop quality, exciting products to drive value back into the category and give consumers a reason to pay more,” says Premier Foods marketing director Yilmaz Erceyes.

Of course there’s still a place for jars, but the challenge is fighting the format’s commoditisation. To this end, Dolmio has rebranded its Bolognese jar portfolio, with products coded Chunky, Smooth or Intense, and in May the brand launched Pasta & Sauce meal kits to, says marketing manager Ian Nundy, “satisfy consumers who want a little helping hand”.

Here’s hoping it gives the brand a helping hand too. It could certainly do with one.

TOP 20 Sauces: cooking SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: –3.6% Total Category 556.9 –40.6 –6.8%
      Total Own Label 111.9 –4.4 –3.8%
1 1 Dolmio Mars 129.2 –10.4 –7.4
2 2 Loyd Grossman Premier Foods 50.00 –2.6 –5.0
3 3 Homepride Premier Foods 32.10 –1.4 –4.2
4 4 Patak’s AB World Foods 28.1 –3.0 –9.8
5 5 Sharwood’s Premier Foods 26.20 –3.0 –10.2
6 8 Sacla’ Sacla’ 25.4 0.9 3.6
7 7 Blue Dragon AB World Foods 25.1 –1.1 –4.1
8 6 Uncle Ben’s Mars 23.6 –3.7 –13.6
9 10 Schwartz McCormick UK 15.2 0.7 4.6
10 11 Colman’s Unilever 14.2 –0.1 –0.7
11 12 Maggi Nestlé 11.9 0.3 2.1
12 9 Ragú Symington’s 9.6 –5.6 –37.1
13 13 Chicken Tonight Symington’s 6.8 –2.4 –25.9
14 15 Seeds of Change Mars 6.3 –1.1 –15.3
15 16 Bisto Premier Foods 6.3 1.5 32.5
16 14 Napolina Princes Foods 5.9 –1.6 –21.6
17 20 The Spice Tailor The Spice Tailor 3.2 1.2 58.4
18 17 Santa Maria Santa Maria 3.1 –0.5 –13.4
19 18 Amoy The Kraft Heinz Co 3.1 –0.2 –5.3
20 19 Meena AB World Foods 1.5 –0.9 –36.2

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