Kerry Foods has the leading brand with Green's cake mixes holding a 25% value share of the sector. "We're continuing our category leading investment with NPD, character licensing and a bold promotional programme to drive sales and increase interest," says Kerry Foods brand manager Sam Bennett. Growth has also been driven by the appeal of more upmarket offerings such as Victoria Foods' Jane Asher range and Betty Crocker dessert mixes. "In the UK the dessert mix category is underdeveloped with just 9% household penetration compared with 60+% in the States," says Scott Peterson, senior marketing manager at General Mills (UK), which owns the prestigious Betty Crocker brand. However, as more and more people begin to experiment, including younger people and men, the industry has plenty of opportunities."We must keep pace," says Peterson. "There's always a balance between retaining loyal customers and responding to new consumers and new lifestyles." One particularly innovative product has been Saxby's new chilled cookie dough which continues to do well, although it's currently limited to the large multiples such as Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose and there is some feeling these products are experimental in nature ­ at best a luxury item, at worst a novelty. "They're seen as a treat, an indulgence," says commercial brand manager Vicki Banks. Other manufacturers haven't seen them as a threat to more conventional cake mixes, however. "Where chilled doughs have been marketed, we haven't noticed any significant impact on sales of either branded or private label cake mixes," says national account manager Graham Aaron of Victoria Foods. One point on which all cake mix companies agree is the importance of products that appeal to children. The modern curriculum has tended to downplay traditional domestic science in favour of food technology, so fewer children learn home baking skills at school. Meanwhile, more working mums mean these skills aren't automatically transmitted from parent to child. "Home baking is a valuable life skill which parents have a duty to pass on," says Aaron. Using cake mixes can be a fun educational activity for busy parents to share with their kids during those elusive hours of quality time, and character licensing and tie-ups with confectionery brands can help catch children's interest. "We know kids' tastes and expectations change all the time; that's why we have a dedicated NPD team continually working on the next thing, and we've fantastic surprises for 2003," says Kerry Foods' Sam Bennett. Green's has already hooked up with global confectionery brand M&M's to produce two new M&M's Minis baking kits. "The high profile above and below the launch campaign for M&M's Crispy has put the brand at the forefront of consumers' minds and we will be able to benefit from that at the home baking fixture," Bennett says. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}