With feverish NPD, soup is now a category of its own Soup appears as a separate category in this year's Top Brands survey for the first time, following lift off of the sector in the last 12 months. Convenience and snacking are the key drivers for the burgeoning market, with the big names in hot pursuit of the definitive solution. The year started on an optimistic note with the launch of Baxters' innovative premium range of fresh microwaveable soups in January. Baxters said it wanted to capitalise on fresh soup as one of the fastest growing segments of the £317m ready to serve market with the launch and it positioned the soup as the closest you can get to home made. But then it decided to withdraw the range later in the year, and plans to bring the range back on shelf next year after its new state-of-the-art fresh food plant is up and running in Grimsby. Peak soup season is traditionally the winter months, and this year saw a storm of excitement from August. Batchelors Cup a Soup Creamy potato range launched at the start of the month, aimed at 18 to 34 year old quick and easy snackers. Heinz ­ comfortably in the lead with its standard range and with its Big Soup in third place in our rankings ­ brought out the one litre Fridge door range, an ambient product which could be stored in the fridge after opening. Homepride had a similar idea and entered the ambient soup market for the first time with Soup in a Bottle. Its nod to Heinz's Fridge door range was backed by a £3m ad campaign and a new 3D look for the Homepride mascot Fred. And Baxters introduced new flavours with the first ever haggis and butternut squash soups seen in the UK market, and a new look tinned portfolio to capture experimental consumers. At the launch it claimed to be committed to bringing current flavour trends to the soup market. By the end of August Heinz was ready to announce details of the first of a plethora of new soup formats and ranges which went on the shelves in October. Four two minute microwaveable soups were aimed at office lunchers and a new Big Soup baked potato range was geared towards bringing soup closer towards the main meal arena. Tweenies, Thomas the Tank Engine and the Rugrats jazzed up new children's tomato soups, and additions were made to the the pouched, premium, standard and blended ranges. Cashing in on growth of soup as a snack food and popularity of soup bars, the new soups offered a convenience solution. New Covent Garden ­ the second top selling soup brand ­ was at the forefront of fresh soups throughout the year, and in September launched Soup in a Cup, its first departure from pint cartons. {{MARKETING }}