Premier Foods is revamping number-one instant soup Batchelors and adding a veg-packed sub-range as part of a complete brand overhaul designed to reverse falling sales.

The news of the revamp comes just weeks after Heinz exclusively told The Grocer it was making its cup-soup debut with Squeeze & Stir sachets of concentrated purée that are mixed with hot water to make a soup containing one of your five-a-day.

The revamped Batchelors range, which is rolling out now, is spearheaded by High-Veg a Soup a three-strong line-up containing between 50% and 70% vegetables. Premier claimed it was a first for the instant dry soup category.

The entire portfolio, which includes Cup a Soup and Slim a Soup, is getting a new look that features images of the ingredients.

Premier is backing the relaunch with a £2m marketing push including TV and in-store activity. It is also adding four variants to Cup a Soup: Creamy Thai, Mulligatawny, Broccoli & Stilton and Pea & Ham, and four to Slim a Soup: Tomato, Golden Vegetable, Chicken and Chicken & Leek.

The £84.8m instant/dry soup category has dropped 2.5% in value year-on-year [SymphonyIRI 52w/e to 11 June 2011], while sales of Batchelors instant soup have fallen 9% year-on-year to £42.9 in the same period.

Premier was confident the changes to the range would bring health-conscious consumers into the category, said senior brand manager Jo Marshall.

But branding agency The Value Engineers questioned whether the new veg lines would be enough to alter the "tired old image".

"Batchelors missed a trick by sticking to its old format," said director Anna Eggleton. "To consumers, it will look like just another marketing message. A change of format would have signalled that it's genuinely different, and make the new real food value more believable.

"Heinz's first foray into the sector shows that there's still life in the category. The question is whether there is still life in Batchelors' portfolio."