Freezing weather is more of a bane than a boon for the wider economy, but one group that has cause to celebrate is the soup makers.

Although the Nielsen data reflects only the first of this year's two big freezes, it shows value sales up 4.1% and volume up 2.4%, with heavy promotions and poor weather even driving sales in the summer.

The big success story has been Heinz, which announced record-breaking sales of 57.3 million cans in January alone and has posted a whopping 13% increase in sales of its Classic soups, a major achievement given it was already market leader.

Glorious! also posted a strong performance albeit from a much lower base and Matthew Stephenson, marketing manager for supplier TSC Food attests to the category's growing year-round appeal.

Others, however, fared less well and the big difference for those at the top at the table at least, seems to be the level of promotions. Heinz increased activity on its Classic range to record levels, says Matthew Cullum, Heinz Soups marketing controller. "This year the volume on Heinz soup on deal was 51% compared with 2009's 36%."

Although its Farmers Market and Taste of Home ranges failed to deliver growth, the strategy is paying off as far as the core brand goes. "Heinz is growing ahead of the wet ambient soup market in value at 10.5% with a value share of 67.3%, which suggests the volume of soup on deal has had a positive effect on soup sales," claims Cullum.

For some at least. Baxters had a mixed year, with sales of its Favourites range down 22.9%, but its healthy and luxury soups up 30.8% and 14.3% respectively.

Surprisingly given own-label's top-line 10.3% growth, own-label wet ambient soups also performed badly. It was their chilled counterparts that helped boost own-label value and stopped overall category growth being dragged down by the brands' heavy promotional activity. On the branded front, New Covent Garden continues to struggle and it is the likes of Yorkshire Soup and Glorious! that look set to take the fight to own-label.

"Fresh soup is still only purchased by less than a third of UK households so there is still scope for growth, not only through new consumers but also frequency," says Stephenson.

Just don't expect Glorious! to favour promotions over NPD, he says. "We invest a lot of time in development and recipes and believe this will pay dividends."

Launch of the Year: Glorious! skinny soup (TSC Foods)
To prove that soup is a year-round offer and not just a wintry treat, Glorious! launched its four flavour-strong Skinny Soup range early this summer.

The flavours, which include Fragrant Thai Carrot and Lemongrass and Goan Spiced Tomato & Lentil, boast on average 150 calories per half pot and were launched to appeal to health-conscious consumers, according to Matthew Stephenson, marketing manager for producer TSC Foods.

The soups are indicative of the company's wider approach to the category, says Stephenson.

Top Products Survey 2010