Analysis by Sheila Eggleston Home baking is seeing a renaissance after years of lacklustre performance. And fuelling the change has been improved products and easy cooking solutions guaranteed to unchain consumers from the kitchen, boost the confidence of any novice, and encourage tiny tots ­ with a little help ­ to cook. But the ever increasing number of TV cookery gurus have also made all things "pukka" in the home baking aisle. Despite a fall of 6% year on year caused by the general decline in sugar consumption, the market is still estimated at £394m [TN Sofres]. But while retailers are finally recognising the potential of this sector, the difficulty lies in how to merchandise these lines when there is so much pressure on space. In January Sainsbury overhauled the home baking fixture in its top 100 stores and in August changed its range for Christmas, moving snacking fruit alongside canned fruit to make way for a bigger home baking offering. "Into that space will go cake solutions," says home baking buyer Kate Barham. "McDougalls has just launched its Cadbury range, Jane Asher has just launched Christmas lines, and we've increased our kids range of cake solutions for Christmas. We are also maximising mixed fruit, mincemeat and vine fruit. "A high percentage of sales is over the Christmas period which starts in August with Christmas cake ingredients, and in November and December for making mince pies which means vine fruits, luxury mixed fruit, nuts and glacé cherries. A lot of our business is also in scratch baking and we persevere to get the right ingredients for the scratch baker. "But the growth area is cake kits which offer everything, including what's needed to cook it in, inside the pack. We see enormous potential for kids. Through Green's we have fun bakes ­ Santa cakes, tree decorations ­ and we try to use character licences as much as possible through the brands because the only way to get to kids is to get them to see the product as a toy." Baking products supplier Renshaw Scott believes manufacturers and retailers pulling together has also stemmed the decline. "By working towards a common goal, we've stopped the aisle being pulled this way and that way," says category marketing manager John Usher. "We've worked with Tate & Lyle to make our classic marzipan, McDougalls has teamed up with Cadbury for its new cake mixes, and a recipe leaflet we've produced with Sainsbury includes nuts, dried fruit, flour, etc, to which all would have contributed." In April Renshaw acquired the cake coverings business from Whitworths which will allow it to focus and invest in the marzipan and sugar paste market. The icing market is showing year on year growth of 2% with Renshaw's Regalice brand growing at 29% in value, but marzipan has a 3% year on year value decline [Information Resources 52 w/e 18.6.00] which the company hopes will change because of its two premium lines classic and brandy marzipan. The bestseller, however, is Scotbloc, its cooking chocolate and for Christmas 2000 parents with young kids will be targeted with on pack promotions. As the trend towards convenience accelerates, manufacturers are increasingly investing in higher quality, innovative product launches. Kerry Foods has just revamped the Green's baking mix range with improved recipes and its first packaging redesign in 20 years. It has 10 children's products and claims 80% of the children's cake mix sector. Marketing manager Toby Langton says: "We tend to stick with the classic licensed characters, even modern day ones like the Simpsons." The Brandway Group launched its first character on Supercook cake mixes this year with the Flintstones chocolate chip mini muffin and chocolate chip cookie caves kits and it has now become its best seller. Distributor Petty, Wood specialises in traditional baking lines such as candied peel, glacé fruit and vanilla beans under the Epicure label, but it too is keen to exploit the kits for kids trend. It is working on a sub brand which it hopes to launch next year. But grabbing children's attention while they are young is also seen as compensation for the lack of cookery teaching at school. Brandway's marketing manager Gill Davies says: "There's certainly a keenness to encourage home cooking on the parent side because its not part of the national curriculum. Of all our products, writing icing is about mums doing it for kids or kids doing it for themselves." How to Cook books by Delia Smith have stimulated market growth and any retailer not heeding the latest ingredient mentioned on her TV slot can only regret at leisure a missed selling opportunity. Davies says the value growth of essences increased because of the trend towards natural ones at a much higher price point. "Delia helped by saying don't use flavourings, use the real McCoy'." Kerry Foods marketing manager Toby Langton says: "Flour based cooking is increasing because of the Delia effect and hobby cooking. "We also know that it is brands driving the market. "Consumers want consistent quality with added value. Sadly, value priced flour fuels the commodity status of the market." Kerry Foods, owner of Homepride which it brought from Spillers two years ago, has given the range a packaging makeover and is now keen to capitalise on its classic mascot Fred. Sugar may be in decline, ­ 13% in value year on year [TN Sofres], but manufacturers continue to tweak their ranges to stimulate interest. Silver Spoon's range comes in user friendly and easily merchandisable 750g Ceka cans, while Tate & Lyle's latest product is a shake and pour dispenser with a flip top lid designed for either function for its granulated cane sugar. T&L recently gained the Women's Institute endorsement for its jam and preserving sugars and it continues to support the Lyle's Junior Cooks' Club it launched in 1999. This autumn it has taken its kids club on line. Van den Bergh Foods says its Stork brand is the best selling brand in the baking sector because it offers consumers choice and versatility. Neil Kimberley, business group director of the butter and margarine category, says: "Hard packet margarine can be used for traditional cake baking, while tubs are used for all-in-one, easy mix cake baking." Health conscious consumers wanting natural ingredients in ready to use formats are also market drivers. But where should these snack packs of dried fruit go? Despite Sainsbury's shift on snacking fruit, Stevens & Brotherton, which handles Sun-Maid, believes taking snack packs away from the home baking sector runs the risk of losing additional sales from consumers shopping the fixture regularly for dried fruit, although it admits moving them to the produce section has added incremental sales. It says snack raisins account for more than 27% of the total raisin market in pack sizes ranging from 14g to 50g, and is worth £4.5m, of which Sun-Maid accounts for nearly 70%. For Christmas it has launched three lines ­ Goldens & Cherries, Fruit Bits and Tropical Medley ­ in 12 x 250g resealable, foil doy packs. A collaboration between Sun-Maid and preserves manufacturer Duerr's has produced Sun-Maid mincemeat. In the run up to Christmas, Chivers Hartley has introduced a new look for its Olde English range of mincemeat. The Pillsbury Dough Boy is set to make an impression this autumn on Jus-Rol's redesigned frozen pastry packs. New for Christmas is a chilled pastry range (see Marketing: Products). Whitworths says dried fruit growth is generated by increased interest in healthy eating, hobby cooking, and snacking which attracts additional purchases. Magnets for younger consumers are tree fruits such as apricots, figs and prunes. Sales and marketing director Brian O'Hagan says: "The potential for this sector is huge. Virtually every consumer wants health delivered in a convenient, tasty format." While home baking is one of the most visited aisles in store thanks to the presence of sugar and flour, most consumers operate a shop and grab' tactic, he says. "Consumers who don't usually buy from the home baking sector, don't believe it is important to their lifestyle. It is vital to encourage them. We are working with retailers to improve merhandising, but one of the major stumbling blocks is the confusing nature of the layout. To merchandise home baking successfully, you need specialist knowledge of what the products are used for. "We've broken down the fixture into consumer led blocks which are easy to follow, and because the majority of purchases are occasion driven we have grouped together product sectors by consumer life stages. Most important for the retailer, they are more shelf and cost efficient." Home baking is still occasion led with promotional activity geared towards special events, including Shrove Tuesday when most retailers pull the stops out and promote heavily. Sainsbury's Barham says: "We have a gondola end of all the necessary ingredients where we try to do something that involves all the departments." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}