Easter, Christmas and wet holidays are the first occasions that spring to mind when home baking is mentioned, and these are certainly the periods when the category sees most consumer activity.

However, they still leave great chunks of the year for the major players to aim at. Birthdays and anniversaries are all very well but that's only a handful of occasions at most per person.

It may be stretching credibility to suggest that significant numbers of consumers are drawn to their ovens when the mercury rises above 25C, but there is definitely scope for targeting new occasions.

Hallowe'en, Mother's Day and Father's Day offer opportunities, while other possible peaks are September's back to school period, around Shrove Tuesday's pancake season and other school holidays.

Celebrity chefs - particularly domestic goddess Nigella Lawson - have done much to reawaken interest in baking and manufacturers are already seizing their chance.

Fiddes Payne produces festive cup cake kits for Christmas and seasonal ones for Hallowe'en, but many of its other lines offer year-round opportunities, including kits with circus and farm themes.

General Mills' Betty Crocker range of muffins, brownies and cookie mixes are aimed at an everyday baking sector that the company says is the fastest-growing segment of the mixes market. Victoria Foods' Jane Asher brand includes the Home Baking, Great to Bake and Everyday ranges, spanning a range of skill levels.

The company believes that its Jane Asher Home Baker of the Year competition, which is now in its third year, does much to remind people that baking is an enjoyable and creative activity for all ages.

"We need to break the mould of baking only on birthdays and special occasions to increase the frequency of purchase," says Richard Ilsley, MD of Supercook brand owner Hero Foods UK.

"We are focused on how to develop quality time and events are a way of doing this,whether individual, such as birthdays or anniversaries, or mass events."

His company has already rolled out Mother's Day kits and this year added chocolate tool box and cupcake kits aimed at Father's Day.

Supercook has also brought out a family fun booklet aimed at parents and kids, an Easter leaflet delivered to two million households in March and revamped its web site offering recipes, activity, baking ideas and inspiration.

RHM has been producing the McDougalls Cook Book for 34 editions while The Be-Ro Cook Book, which is on its 40th edition, still sells 1,500 copies a week. n