Brandtrack:A taste of the sauce sector

This month BrandTrack examines the cooking sauces market. With impulse purchase a very strong factor influencing purchase, the wide array of brands rely heavily on point-of-sale promotions, as well as television campaigns

Brands bought

Of the 20 brands our respondents claimed to have bought during November 1995, eight achieved penetration of more than five per cent, and three – Homepride, Chicken Tonight and Dolmio – were bought by more than a fifth of the market.

Repertoire purchase is particularly high, with most users buying more than one brand, demonstrating the importance of different tastes and themes in products. AB purchasers, possibly more experimental than others, have the greatest range of brands, and the widest repertoires; they are especially strong supporters of Dolmio, Ragu, and Sharwood’s. Northern buyers are also more likely to have wider repertoires than those in the rest of the country.

Supermarket own-label products put up a strong showing, particularly Sainsbury’s, whose products were bought by 16 per cent of respondents. Tesco also appears in the top ten with seven per cent penetration.

Most brands have noticeably lower penetration in Scotland, with the exception of Uncle Ben’s and Crosse & Blackwell. More than a third of buyers in London, Anglia and the South-east have bought at least one supermarket own-label sauce.

Reasons for purchase

Habitual purchase is unusually low, especially compared with other food markets examined by BrandTrack. Uniquely, women over 40 are the least likely to be regular brand buyers.

The market is strongly driven by experimentation, with nearly half of all buyers giving this as a reason for choosing a brand. More than three-quarters of Scottish and Northern buyers were influenced by novelty. This factor also peaks among the 31 to 40 age group and among respondents without children.

The importance of choice at point of purchase correlates with this experimentation. AB buyers, who have the widest repertoires, are the most likely to choose a product while browsing along the shelf. More than half of Uncle Ben’s, Ragu and Homepride buyers chose the brand because it caught their eye in the store.

In such a fluid market, many buyers use previous experience of a manufacturer as a reassurance of quality – Sharwood’s, Crosse & Blackwell, and own-label buyers being most influenced by transferred endorsement. Personal recommendation seems to play a similar role, particularly for Northern and ClC2 buyers. Word of mouth is strongest for Homepride and Chicken Tonight.

Buyers of own-label products are more than twice as likely to give relative cheapness as a reason for choosing a brand; they are also more likely to have been motivated by a money-off offer.

Advertising recall

Advertising awareness is extraordinarily low for a market with such a high interest in experimentation. Although 16 brands were named, only Homepride and Chicken Tonight were remembered by a quarter or more of respondents.

Overall advertising awareness is particularly low in East Anglia and the South-west, where less than half the buyers could recall advertising for any brand. Awareness tends to be lower among older purchasers but, unusually, shows little bias in socio-economic grade.

Awareness of Chicken Tonight advertising is slightly biased towards younger buyers, and the upper end of the social scale. For Homepride it peaks among 31 to 40 year-olds and among C1s.

Media expenditure

Nineteen manufacturers advertised in the year up to December 1995, spending nearly 20m between them.

Expenditure is more evenly spread than in many food markets, with three brands spending more than 2m, six more than 1m, and three more than 500,000. Spend was fairly constant throughout 1995, but peaked in the last quarter.

Television takes 93 per cent of all media expenditure, with press accounting for six per cent. Sharwood’s, Dolmio, Uncle Ben’s and Ragu have used television exclusively in this period; the other brands have used press or radio as well, with Chicken Tonight and Crosse & Blackwell Bonne Cuisine running campaigns in at least three media.

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