Pastry is notoriously difficult for the scratch baker to get right, so ready-made options have convenience and consistency on their side and the major branded manufacturers are refusing to be flattened by any of the market's challenges.
Both the major players, Jus-Rol, which accounts for nearly 98% of the frozen pastry market, and Saxby's, which claims a 90% share of chilled, are going all out to appeal to a broader market.
Both have targeted women's media and cookery titles to demonstrate the versatility of their products and both have launched new products, targeting wannabe cooks who don't have quite enough time on their hands to cook from scratch.
In addition, Jus-Rol has also produced a Passion for Pastry cook book featuring recipes and tips from the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Michel Roux Junior to further inspire consumers.
Saxby's, meanwhile, has launched ready-rolled chilled pastry to top pies or cakes and updated packaging with new product photography.
Commercial director Brian Homewood says the changes have introduced new, younger consumers to the sector without alienating the core market. "We have given the packs a fresh, new look but taken care not to radically alter the distinctive look," he says. "The emphasis on recipe dishes stresses how easy it is to prepare great-tasting dishes quickly and also conveniently."
Jus-Rol on the other hand is targeting the premium end of the market with 500g puff and shortcrust all-butter frozen pastry for the creation of high-quality pies and puddings.
According to the company, the new range can be used in the same way as its standard lines but has a superior texture and more buttery taste so is ideal for baking indulgent products.
While the products are certainly not designed for slimmers, the company has not, however, completely ignored the importance of health concerns. The new pastry products contain no hydrogenated fats or preservatives.
McDougalls points to growth in crumble, pizza and suet mixes as an indication of resurgence in interest in savoury and sweet baking. Sales of suet - an integral part of puddings such as jam roly poly - rose 2.5% in the latest year [IRI 52 w/e 20 June 2006] .
Jus-Rol also has foodies in its sights with a canapé range of snacks in sophisticated flavours, such as red onion & goats cheese and a filled vol-au-vent selection.
Marketing manager Tracy Roberts reckons the party food is a logical extension for the brand. "Entertaining is becoming more frequent, from buffet table parties and barbecues to informal at-home entertaining and dinner parties," she says. n