Higher quality and a particular appeal to children are key factors for success says Sheila Eggleston N ot since the heady days of the Viota sponge mixes in the '60s has there been such a resurgence of interest in cake mixes. ACNielsen's new product monitor shows Cadbury's making an impressive debut with all eight of its lines in the top 10 product launches based on average weekly sales. Launched last September by McDougall Foods, its Cadbury's white buttons cake mix topped the table for achieving £472,000 average four weekly sales since launch. McDougall Foods md Kate Taylor says products performed badly historically because there weren't any good quality mixes. "Cadbury's and Jane Asher brands started the market motoring again, and it's now growing at 15%." The company claims 46% of all packs sold in the first 12 months have been to new users. Limited edition mixes for special occasions have proved winners, particularly for McDougall's Easter varieties topped with Cadbury's mini eggs. "We were trying to attract new users, and thought these might draw people in with kids. The mini eggs ones were very strong and many were on off-shelf displays." The company has made its first foray into character licensing choosing Bob the Builder for a mini muffin mix ­ a timely launch that coincided with the hit record. "Children are important to this market. The people who bake now baked when they were children. It's important to get people into baking at a young stage," says Taylor. Bringing more kids to the fixture is also Kerry Foods' main objective, and character licensing dominates its Green's range. It is investing £1m in promoting the category. Brand manager Sam Bennett says: "In the past year we have introduced Bart Simpson, Dino, and Harry Potter mixes to our children's cookies range. It's important to attract children to home baking and involve them in this sector. Not only do kids learn baking skills, but it introduces adults to Green's." The Jane Asher range launched by Victoria Foods now numbers 16 products. This includes four Christmas lines available from this month. Sales and marketing director Kevin Loftus says: "Mixes have grown nearly 12% and sweet mixes by 22%. What we and Cadbury's have done is gone upmarket. We've made home baking interesting, added value, and brought people back to the fixture," he says. "Some retailers have blocked brands, and if you have a strong brand blocked together, it looks good on shelf." Three new products will include a coconut cake, triple chocolate cookies and the company's first organic lines ­ fruit and chocolate flapjacks. The brand up to January 2001 was worth £2m and Victoria Foods is looking to build considerably on that. "Jane Asher is still fully behind the brand, and we are looking at other products with her." Newcomer Saxby's has entered the cake mix category to fill a gap in the chilled arena and, it says, will compete with ambient on price. Its American style cookie dough and brownie mix under the We Make, You Bake' sub brand offer a quick bake solution as they take just 10 to 15 minutes to cook. Both products have a chiller life of 28 days and can be frozen. This autumn General Mills' doyenne of the American style cake mix, Betty Crocker, has spruced up her range. Two new brownie variants have been added to her line up, and the range has had a packaging makeover. The new look keeps the well known red spoon on the pack but tones down its American heritage. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}