New products have helped to swell sales of liquid cooking sauces and stir-fry is emerging from pasta's shadow On the face of it, cooking sauces might not appear to be the most likely candidate for fastest growing category. But, as we have seen from a number of other grocery sectors, today's consumers ­ who have been dubbed "cash rich, time poor" ­ want convenience above almost everything else. As a result, manufacturers are devising ever more simple and quick sauces for those who enjoy home cooking but don't have the time they would like to do it. Sales in liquid cooking sauces have grown by £38m in the last year and a good proportion of these extra sales have come from new products. The Five Brothers pasta sauce from Van den Bergh has undoubtedly made the most impact of all the new brands and, overall, VdB has enjoyed a consistently successful year. Despite Dolmio's dominance in the sector, it has declined over the year while Ragú, another VdB brand, has shown a healthy 20.4% growth. The Dolmio brand has not been stagnating, however, as the summer launch of Just Heat & Serve pouches proved. The first of their kind, the plastic pouches have been designed with convenience in mind as they are microwaveable and ready to serve within a couple of minutes. Homepride's pasta sauce range has also benefited from product innovation with a competitor to Just Heat & Serve, Homepride Pasta Stir & Serve. Homepride's emergence in the pasta market ­ and its subsequent impressive jump in sales ­ has been part of the reason for the dip in Dolmio's fortunes. As these new products emerge, the range is increasing in the supermarkets. This is quite unusual, as often a new brand will replace an older, less profitable one. But consumers are clearly enjoying the range now available to them and are taking advantage of the constant stream of promotions. Loyalty in the category is low because of these special offers and so the category and its manufacturers are kept on their toes ­ which is all good news for the sauce buyer. While Dolmio, Homepride and Ragú fight it out for supremacy within pasta sauces, Seeds of Change from Masterfoods has emerged as a rival to Five Brothers in the race to be fastest growing brand of the year. A lot has been made of the availability of organic produce over the last couple of years but in reality very few manufacturers have been able to turn the notion into a successful brand. Seeds of Change is one of the first to break through into the ambient organic market and looks set to continue its growth in the years to come. Loyd Grossman has also put in a good performance. Pitching himself at the more premium end of the market, sales of his range have grown nearly 26% over the past year. The popularity of pasta has perhaps stilted the emergence of stir fry sauces until now but as tastes change and the country's ethnic diversity broadens the palate of the nation, it is now a sector of great promise. Sharwood's Spice Blend has been a contributing factor to the 23% growth of the Sharwood's stir fry brand, while Blue Dragon has also increased its sales by 23.5% over the year with its stir fry offering. The success of Amoy's Straight to Wok again impresses the importance of time-saving to the consumer, and it is probably only a matter of time before Lee Kum Kee is a household name. With more than 75% share of the pesto market, Sacla' is beginning to make its presence known in the liquid sauce sector. While there is a handful of other brands available, combined own label brands pose the biggest threat but even that has declined in the last year and what growth there is can be attributed wholly to Sacla'. Perhaps the biggest impact of all this year has been the growth of Chicken Tonight. While the tone and content of the TV ads may not light everybody's fire, they have certainly contributed to the number of Chicken Tonight jars thrown into consumers' trolleys over the past 12 months. In fact, the Chicken Tonight brand has added £15m to its sales over the past year, taking it to second place in the sauces rankings. Introducing seasonal variants to the range ­ such as the latest Moroccan Chicken version ­ is a clever way of stimulating interest in the brand and the category. And the brand also performs extremely well when on promotion. Following the success of Sizzle & Stir, the most recent addition to the range is Stir It Up, another of the now ubiquitous two jar creations. Having employed the acting talent of former Arsenal footballer Ian Wright to advertise the brand on television, it is now the turn of Big Brother's Darren Ramsey to sell the product. Presumably he will need all of his powers of persuasion to convince the nation that he likes chicken to eat as well as to talk to. {{MARKETING }}