Oriental Express has scored a David and Goliath-style victory over rival Masterfoods in the frozen arena.

The niche player has frozen the food giant’s Uncle Ben’s Rice Bowl brand out of Sainsbury to secure an exclusive listing for its own World Express sub-brand.

And Masterfoods has revealed plans to withdraw Rice Bowl completely from all retailers by the end of the year.

Sainsbury is already in the process of selling through remaining Rice Bowl stock and is replacing it with the new Oriental Express offering.

The retailer said it had taken the decision to ditch Rice Bowl because it was no longer deemed to offer shoppers value for money. It is understood the brand had performed reasonably well when sold on promotion but had failed to entice shoppers at a full price tag of more than £2 for a single-serve meal. The new World Express meals, which include recipes such as Chicken Curry, Sweet & Sour Chicken and Chilli Con Carne, will initially retail at £2 for two price-marked 340g portions.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury said: “We are replacing Uncle Ben’s Rice Bowls because the World Express range offers better value to our customers.”

Masterfoods spokeswoman Sam McElligott said the company was disappointed Rice Bowl had not worked as it had performed well in pre-launch research.

“We tried to launch a premium, quality product but the category is very value driven. We would rather concentrate on the areas we are doing well in, such as ambient.”

Michaela Blunden, marketing director at Oriental Express, said the five-strong World Express range would be rolled out to other retailers in the new year, retailing at between 99p and £1.49.
Simon Mowbray