Total sales of vegetarian food grew by 4.8% last year, according to TNS [52 w/e November 6, 2005].
However, the £65m market remains at the bottom of the barbecue food chain when it comes to burgers, grills and sausages, with a share of 0.5%.
Mark Jaffe, category product manager at Heinz-owned veggie brand Linda McCartney, is confident there will be an upsurge in demand for barbecue-friendly vegetarian food and growth will come from meat eaters buying into the market.
He says vegetarians represent only about 3% of the population, but more and more meat eaters are looking to reduce their intake of red meat and are choosing vegetarian products.
According to Jaffe, Linda McCartney consistently sees sales uplifts during the summer months and this year Sainsbury will be extending its range in-store.
"Sainsbury has shown an interest in taking sun-dried tomato sausages this year as well has having standard sausages, and we would hope to see this happening more," he says. "Barbecuing is gaining in popularity. The season is getting longer so there is plenty of room for growth."
Quorn, now owned by Premier Foods, aims to reverse its less than auspicious sales performance last year with a heavyweight sampling campaign to support its new range.
Jeremy Hughes, trade marketing controller, explains: "We are launching new sausage and burger recipes that give the products a moistness they previously lacked - it should make them more appealing to consumers having barbecues."
However, in a change of approach, the company is severing links with barbecues because it believes their strong connection with meat means it is not the best way to promote their products.
"We are steering clear of barbecue-themed TV ads due to a poor response last year," says Hughes. "The ads concentrated too much on the health elements but didn't do enough to motivate consumers. Quorn needs to be tasted to inspire purchase - consumers are generally surprised at how tasty they are when they try them."
Pivotal to the launch is an in-store sampling campaign - dubbed the Quorn Kitchen - taking place in supermarkets from May to September, as well as at key events, including the Womad music festival in July.
Goodlife Foods is also aware that when it comes to barbecuing, meat is king, and this year will be promoting an alternative barbecue menu to inform consumers otherwise. "We want to show people that barbecues don't necessarily mean meat," says marketing manager Nia Williams.
To emphasise its products' potential, it is altering its focus on falafel by changing the packaging and promoting the benefits, such as the different occasions it can be used and the low saturated fat content. The company is also pushing non-traditional barbecue lines after it found that vegetarian consumers were trying out foods that hadn't been designed for barbecue use.
"Our research has found that a surprisingly high number of consumers barbecue our nut cutlet, which has a completely different flavour from any of the other products usually found at a barbecue," says Williams.