Dining in fails to spice up the sauce market

With the credit crunch expected to encourage many people to dine at home rather than eat out, it was thought table sauces may benefit.

But, so far, there's not been much evidence to support the hypothesis. The category's 4.8% year-on-year sales increase to £518m is tracking less than food price inflation. The top products table looks similar to last year, with Heinz tomato ketchup and Unilever's Hellmann's Real mayonnaise holding firm at the top of the table with sales of £98.2m and £48m respectively. Hellmann's Light mayonnaise is also up 6.3% to £28.5m, and the extra light version rose 3.9% to £7.9m.

One new entry is Heinz reduced salt and sugar tomato ketchup, which has leapt 12 places from 24 to 12 following 129.9% year-on-year sales increases to £4.6m.

"Consumers are looking to reduce salt in their diet, driven in part by the continued media focus," says a Heinz spokesman. "But it is a great-tasting recipe, and consumers want healthier options that don't compromise on taste. The product had new packaging from June, which has delivered greater standout on the shelf."

Apparently missing out on the trend for healthier products is Kraft's light dressing, down by 13.3% year-on-year to £6.4m.

Heinz's other success story is its HP BBQ sauce, which jumped from 10th to ninth place, following year-on-year sales increases of 33.4% to £7m. Its top-down mayonnaise rose to 17th place from relative obscurity last year, with sales of £3.5m.

Top Launch - Special Blend Tomato Sauce (HJ Heinz)
Tomato ketchup went upmarket in April when Heinz launched Special Blend Tomato Sauce for consumers with "more sophisticated taste buds". The glass bottle proclaims the sauce contains 12 tomatoes salt, sugar and spices. "Driven by heightened awareness for wellbeing, there is growing interest in premium products and specialist ingredients," says Heinz ketchup marketing manager Caroline Clarke.
The Heinz sauce brand was given an overhaul in April, which may explain the success of several of its products in the category.

Meanwhile, Unilever's Colman's sauces - mustard, mint, apple, horseradish and tartare - all remain in the top 20, though sales of mustard fell £1m.

In 2007, experts predicted that all things exotic would be popular in 2008, but the table shows consumers have stuck with tradition.

Co-op sauce buyer John Dixon claims consumers were not swayed by new ingredients and flavours. "Things like garlic mayonnaise don't seem to have caught on," he says. "People are quite traditional. They will always search out the Heinz."

Consumers will continue to trade down to own label products as the recession deepens. "I expect that migration to carry on, because prices are still going up on brands," says Dixon.

View The Grocer's definitive Top Products 2008 survey