Birds Eye is ditching its Eat Positive brand of health-focused frozen ready meals less than a year after launch and replacing it with Healthy Options, a new range that targets dieters.

In a move that could signal a wider renaissance of diet foods, the company admitted consumers had not responded to the healthy-eating message of Eat Positive, which was launched last March.

“It did not capture the imagination of customers as the market started to move towards diet products rather than everyday health,” said senior brand manager Sarah Moore.

“Unfortunately, because of this, the products have not performed in line with expectations.”

Birds Eye has entered the diet sector in a bid to reverse a 2.9% drop in value sales. Unlike the ill-fated Eat Positive, Healthy Options, which hits shelves next month, will clearly feature a low-fat message front of pack.

As well as being low in fat, the six-strong range is free from artificial colours and flavours and contains ‘kitchen cupboard’ ingredients to give it a more home-made appeal.

The line up consists of a beef hotpot, cottage pie, fish pie, sweet & sour chicken, chicken curry and spicy chilli & wedges options.

The products, which are priced £1.79 per 350g pack, would plug a gap in the ready meals category for a diet offering that did not compromise on taste and quality, claimed Moore.

“We understand that it’s really difficult to find the right food to eat when you are on a diet and research has shown consumers are looking for a better quality choice in healthy ready meals,” she said.

“Top of their list of priorities is great flavour, and Healthy Options will offer the tasty dieting choice expected from Birds Eye.”

The range will go up against WeightWatchers ready meals, which generated an 11% increase in sales last year to £51.2m -albeit from a smaller base - making WeightWatchers the second-bestselling frozen ready meal brand after Birds Eye [Nielsen 52w/e 4 October 2008].