Greencore has introduced what it claims is the first large-scale pre-packed sandwich manufacturing operation to the US, with the aim of doubling sales of its American business over the next year.

Announcing its full year results this year, the Irish chilled food giant revealed it had opened a sandwich factory in Cincinnati to trial pre-packaged sandwiches across 60 regional Kroger stores - the USA's second biggest supermarket chain after Wal-Mart.

US supermarkets currently only sold sandwiches from behind the delicatessen, said Patrick Coveney, Greencore's CEO, who was confident of a positive consumer response to the four-month trial, which started in mid-April. The pre-packaging process would reduce wastage and improve cost efficiencies for Kroger, he said.

"The sandwiches will look a little different to sandwiches in the UK," he added. "They will be bigger and have more protein to suit American tastes. The key will be to create something that works for American consumers, and not simply to export something we know works here ."

Back in the UK, the group currently prepares own-label sandwiches for the likes of Asda, Sainsbury's and Boots. Buoyed by strong sales in its own-label ready meal business, the group recorded an overall 3% increase in sales to £472.6m.

"There is increasing evidence that the decline has bottomed out in the UK and we are beginning to see stabilisation, with market growth in a number of categories," said Coveney. "We have seen a return of consumer sentiment - partly driven by promotions - after a number of difficult years for chilled ready meals."

The success of retailer meal deals, such as Marks & Spencer's £10 Dine in for Two deal, had also prompted growth in the business, he said. "It is a tribute to the resilience of the British consumer that there are now shafts of light appearing in the chilled food industry. Times have been tough but they have gotten on with their lives."