The ambient bowl format and traditional recipes proved a hit but chilled products also performed well despite the recession

Soaring raw material costs have bumped up the price of soup during the past 12 months, contributing to a 3.8% dip in volume.

However, Heinz Taste of Home soup in pots has outperformed the category, growing more than 15 percentage points faster than its canned Heinz counterparts and climbing three places up the rankings.

The bowl format offers a long shelf life and protects manufacturers from fluctuating tin plate costs. Heinz says sales have also been driven by the fact it can be heated in the microwave and that the range offers some old favourite recipes.

“Traditional recipes are appealing to consumers. They are going back to the recipes they remember from their childhoods. The range also offers a hearty and sustainable meal,” says Heinz soups marketing controller Matthew Cullum.

Heinz’s Big Soup and Farmers’ Market ranges also fared well, growing 9.9% and 9.5% respectively, while the bestselling soup remains Heinz Classic, which is up 9.5% in value to £152m.

Perhaps the big surprise this year has been the success of chilled soups. Shoppers may be closely watching their purse strings, but not at the expense of health and convenience, it seems.

New Covent Garden remained in second place with 8.6% value growth, while Conival’s Marco Pierre White’s Glorious! chilled soup sales soared 153.9%, leaping from 34th to 19th place in the chart thanks to the launch of four new varieties.

Instant soup has had a strong year, too, with Symington’s Ainsley Harriott Cup Soup up 16.4% to £6m, while sales of its Mug Shot range grew £0.9m to £2.6m and Batchelors Cup a Soup Thick and Creamy climbed eight places up the chart.

“We are seeing high double-digit growth in instant soups because it is a fantastic option for lunch. It’s almost a lunchbox replacement and has been heavily promoted,” says Asda soup buyer Sarah Dunhill.

However, the rise of chilled and instant has come at the expense of other players in the category, with Batchelors Soupfulls down 25.6%, while the Baxters Luxury range slumped 16.6% and Healthy Choice 18.4%. Sales of Batchelors condensed shot up 283.4%, but this was artificially boosted by the rebrand of Campbell’s condensed soup under the Batchelors name.

Top launch: Heinz steak & Guinness casserole soup, Heinz

Forget those girly soups such as watercress & crème fraîche, Heinz’s Steak & Guinness Casserole offering is unashamedly one for the boys. “We put two great brands together and the result was a really strong product,” says Heinz Soups marketing controller Matthew Cullum. This  limited-edition line will be available until next spring, but  Heinz is planning to team up with more brands to launch new varieties next year.

Top Products Survey 2009