Over the past year, the market for vegetarian food has increased by 7.2%, from £654m in 2005 to £702m for 2006.

The growth in this market was a result of an increase in the number of consumers who bought into the vegetarian food category - this was up by 1.6% - and also through consumers shopping more frequently - which contributed 3.1% towards the growth.

In addition, products in this market were on average 3.8% more expensive than they had been the year before. The average price per pack therefore grew to £1.48 in 2006.

Most sectors of this market are in growth, but the potato-based and ready meals, as well as the snacks/accompaniments sector, are all substantially outperforming the overall market.

The combined increase in value of these sub-sectors readily cancels out a slight decline, worth £1m, in the pastry-based sector.

Although pastry-based vegetarian products remain the single-largest sector in this market, the growth in the potato-based sector in particular would put pastry under some threat if the current trend were to continue.

Both the Co-op and Asda grew ahead of the market rate in spend, with vegetarian value sales up 16% and 12% respectively on the back of strong year-on-year growth across most sectors.

Overall, however, the strongest increase - with a growth of 24% - was by Iceland, based around a market-bucking trend in the pastry sector and a move towards potato-based products, many of which sit in the frozen aisles.

New product development has remained fairly consistent over the past two years - a total of 103 new products were launched in 2006, which comprised 5% of the market spend.

This compares with 92 new lines the year before, which accounted for 8% of spend in 2005.

Own label (led by Tesco and Marks & Spencer) still dominates the market, but Quorn is by far the leading brand.

Cauldron, the sister brand to Quorn, has also performed well, while Dalepak's introduction of Grassingtons has also been a notable success.

Daniel Fernandez, TNS Worldpanel