Global fruit supplier Dole is shaking up its ambient desserts and fruit portfolio in a bid to fight off competition from chilled desserts and the revitalised canned puddings sector. As part of its strategy to bring in new products, revamp packaging and remove ‘nasties’, it is launching a five-strong range of fruit in jars – its first foray into a category dominated by Del Monte and supermarket own-label offerings.

After a six-month trial in selected Tesco stores, the range is now being rolled out nationally across the major multiples. It comes in a variety of flavours, including pineapple and tropical fruit, that are preserved in light syrup or fruit juices. It retails at £1.99 per 695g jar. Dole is also moving into the rice pudding sector for the first time with Fruit & Rice tubs, which contain mango, pineapple and mandarin chunks. They are available in four-packs priced at £2.19.

“We are introducing rice puddings into the on-the-go, lunchbox and snacking market, while the jars will allow us to compete better with fresh fruit and chilled prepared fruit products,” said Andy Coult, sales director of Dole’s Northern Europe operation.

The company has also removed all e-numbers and saturated fats, and has redesigned packaging to include more contemporary graphics and new product descriptors. Canned desserts sales have risen 10% in value to £40m, according to TNS [52w/e 15 June 2008]. Sales have been boosted by consumers’ renewed interest in traditional puddings following big investments from Heinz and Premier Foods earlier this year.