Butt Foods has added a twist to the concept of hollowed-out bread containers, with a versatile range of bread bowls sturdy enough to hold meals, yet soft and tasty enough to eat.

The idea of bread as a dish has been around for many years, with US dish clam chowder often served in sourdough loaves and stews served in bread rolls in Eastern Europe, but Butt Foods has taken the idea a step further with the Bread Bowl range. The range comes in four flavours - white, Indian naan bread, Italian and Mediterranean herb.

The company was founded in Nottingham in 1990 by restaurant owner Mazhar Butt and bakes up to 60 million products every year. Introduced at Sial in Paris last October, it is aiming the range at 18 to 45-year-old consumers looking for convenient meal solutions.

"We were looking to develop an innovative range of products that could create tasty, quick and less formal meals," said managing director David Williams.

"To achieve this we looked carefully at how and what we were eating ourselves and thought about what was missing. The Bread Bowl range was the outcome of this.

"We wanted the bread bowls to be sturdy enough to hold dishes such as chilli and curry, but still be soft enough to eat. We also wanted the product to be microwaveable in less than a minute, so we had some pretty tough challenges."

Williams said the company was currently developing retail packs, which will be launching later this year, in response to demand from major supermarkets. It expects this range to clock up sales of £2m by 2008 - the equivalent of a 1% share of the UK speciality bread market.

"We are expecting strong interest from major retailers, who might sell them as standalone products or in own-label meals or snacks, and also from manufacturers who might use the bowls as part of a ready meal," said Williams.

The Bread Bowl range will be showcased at IFE in March where the brand extensions will also be introduced, including a starter-size bread bowl and a Bread Boat for sandwiches and snacking.