TNS Superpanel's latest figures show a 7.2% value growth in the 52 weeks to August 19, pushing the market to just over £455m. So what is driving this very positive performance? Michael Beard, chief executive of the Rayner Food Group, the largest own label producer of table sauces as well as the Rayner Burgess brand is in no doubt: "The perception and usage of these products has changed enormously as consumers have become more cosmopolitan, adventurous and experimental in their tastes through eating out, foreign travel and the influence of celebrity chefs. "Sauces, condiments, pickles and chutneys are being used experimentally with new foods, in snack meals of all kinds, and as meal ingredients. "Horseradish, for example, is used extensively with smoked fish and mint sauce is added to yogurt to make raita, an Indian meal accompaniment," says Beard. "The consequent increase in new product development and hefty investment in consumer education is what's driving the market at the moment." There has been a flurry of developments from all the big players. The biggest of these in terms of publicity has to be Heinz Green Sauce, the limited edition green variant of the company's market leading Tomato Ketchup. It gained 5.5% value share of the UK tomato ketchup sector within the first five weeks of its July launch . General manager Steve Turner says the green variant has enough life to run to the New Year when it will be withdrawn. "While it has novelty value, it's not sustainable in the long term," he says. Heinz must next decide whether to introduce the Funky Purple variant launched this summer in the US. Heinz Sauces, however, are here to stay. A range of versatile table sauces in garlic, sun-dried tomato, Mediterranean olive and exotic flavours introduced six months ago, they are aimed at younger, more sophisticated consumers. Turner says the range is based on condiment sauces popular in northern Europe and whose success Heinz hopes to replicate here. Sales have reached more than £1m, with 60% distribution and purchasers are predominantly the target audience of ABs, in the 25-40 age group. "Judging by the demographics, it's working," says Turner. The other significant Heinz development this year is BBQ Sauce for Chicken which capitalises on the huge growth in both BBQ sauces and chicken as a host food. Heinz sees the use of BBQ sauces extending to become an all year round side of plate accompaniment to meat and other foods. HP Foods has already found that 60% of consumers use BBQ sauce only as a table sauce and category development manager Nikeeta Vagh says the company is trying to drive year round usage of its BBQ Sauce through activities and promotions. In mainstream table sauce it's promoting wider usage of its Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce through a TV campaign. Vagh says 30% of regular Worcestershire Sauce consumers use it as a table sauce and that led the company to introduce a thicker variant, Table Sauce, last year as a condiment. However, insufficient support coupled with a lack of differentiation with the main brand, has meant it hasn't yet fulfilled its sales potential, a situation Vagh says will be remedied. The premium end of sauces and condiments is one of the market's most vibrant areas, and is seeing a lot of launch activity and fresh entrants. Jams and preserves manufacturer Wilkin & Son has introduced 11 new chutneys and relishes. Sales director Ian Thurgood says the company ruled out exotic recipes because there are too many on the market and they don't sell. Instead it has gone for high quality versions of such classics as tomato ketchup and hot English mustard that everybody understands. To create a point of difference in this crowded sector, eight are organic. Thurgood says Wilkin prefers to take the organic route where possible when introducing new products because it opens up new markets ­ a view echoed by Bennett Opie which went organic for exactly those reasons when it recently launched mint and apple sauces. Martlett Foods, now part of the Rayner Food Group, is entirely organic with a strong base in wholefood stores. Business development director Andy Long says the organic sector has huge opportunities for development. "We're seeking wider distribution in the multiples and plan to develop own label organic lines." Another growth area is the development of premium products with a contemporary twist designed to accompany more modern food styles and appeal to younger consumers. English Provender has been successful at this, as has Elsenham Quality Foods. Cranberry sauce is one of the great classics of the condiments market and Jenks Sales Brokers, distributor of leading brand Ocean Spray has no doubt that consumers are trading up to higher quality products. Jenks' Pippa McCrae, responsible for Ocean Spray marketing and distribution, says: "Premium products have stimulated growth by converting standard sauce users to gourmet varieties and by attracting new users who want something more special." McCrae says there's evidence of increased year round usage of cranberry sauce and of its use with a wider range of host foods. To broaden that further it has launched Redcurrant & Cranberry Jelly which can be eaten with game, lamb and poultry. Mustard is a more difficult area for innovation, hence the sector is flat in line with the fall in popularity of traditional roast meals. Colman's, the leading brand with 57% share, has been continuing to develop the buoyant speciality sector with its Mustard Shop range that includes wholegrain, peppercorn, honey and horseradish varieties. It now faces fresh competition from French's which has added three new variants since G Costa took over the distributorship. Pickles, too, is flat, but this could be about to change. Haywards, the leading sour pickle brand, has been given a major overhaul by Premier International Foods, and has new packaging and recipes designed to appeal to younger consumers. New variants include Spicy Onions, Chip Cut Gherkins and Chip Cut Beetroot for the growing snacking market. Branston, the leading sweet pickle from Nestlé, has run a £3m media programme and made two launches in the sandwich pickle segment. "These have helped reverse the pickle market's long term decline," says Nestlé condiments category marketing manager David Wilkinson. This month it launches Branston Smooth Pickle, which is smooth, unlike a pickle, but thicker than a sauce and comes in a squeezy bottle at rsp £1.29. It can be used with everything from chips and dips to toasted sandwiches and BBQs. Baxters, which has the leading pickled beetroot brand and is a leading player in fruit chutneys, plans to become a major player in the market following its acquisition of Garners and Well Pickled. Brand manager Caroline Cochrane says there is a huge opportunity in the newer side of pickles to create more contemporary products. It is also looking at new pack formats and worldwide cuisines for inspiration to bring younger people back to traditional pickles. Salad dressings, the largest sector, has grown substantially in value, partly through leading brands' higher prices and innovation at the premium end. The exception is salad cream where own label budget brands have fallen to as low as 24p in the multiples' price war. Heinz's Turner says the company's iconic Salad Cream is back in volume growth after its relaunch two years ago but subsequent price hike which resulted in lost distribution. Mayonnaise continues strong growth, led by Unilever Bestfood's Hellmann's whose sector share has risen to 65.7%. This year it launched new fruit based dressings, Luxury Citrus and Luxury Orange and Honey, which extends usage into marinades. Kraft Foods has added a regular French dressing, a regular Caesar and a less than 5% fat" Caesar variety to its range this year. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}