Lines such as Tesco Finest and Sainsbury's Taste the Difference have helped to almost double UK chilled ready meal sales since 1997, according to research group Mintel.
The company said chilled ready meal sales grew 90% between 1997and 2001. Total ready meal sales hit E2.9bn in 2002.
The UK accounted for 42% of ready meals sales in Europe in 2002, way ahead of France in second place with 21%.
Mintel European consumer goods consultant Anne Bourgeois said: "Retailers have enhanced the image of chilled meals using premium packaging and premium positioning."
Mintel said UK growth in the category was also helped by changes in lifestyle and the use of more microwaves.

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