ella's kitchen big kids muffins

Source: Ella’s Kitchen

The entire range had disappeared from Tesco’s website and Ocado by the time of writing

Ella’s Kitchen has discontinued its range of frozen foods for children after less than five years on the market.

A spokeswoman for Ella’s confirmed the move, after consumers took to Facebook to complain of limited availability of Big Kids lines including Cheesy Croquettes, Cod Fishies with Vegetable and Starry Chicken Nuggets.

However, the spokeswoman declined to comment further.

The entire Big Kids range had disappeared from Tesco’s and Ocado’s website by the time The Grocer went to press. While Tesco confirmed it had delisted the range, Ocado had not responded to requests for comment.

Big Kids made its debut in September 2018, as a 14-strong lineup rich in fruit & veg – suitable for children up to the age of eight.

Originally  exclusively to Tesco, the lineup was billed by Ella’s Kitchen CEO Mark Cuddigan as “the biggest project we’ve ever done”. It was the result of 18 months of development, with the aim to “revolutionise the frozen category”.

However, one senior industry source this week described the frozen aisles as a “graveyard” for the UK’s baby and toddler brands – pointing to the disappearance in recent years of Kiddie Cubes and Strong Roots’ spin-off for children, Little Roots.

UK shoppers were not the “big freezer users” Americans were – a fact that was likely overlooked by Ella’s US owner, Hain Celestial, when it launched Big Kids, the source argued.

Another industry insider said UK parents did not shop for their infants in the freezer aisle because “they associate frozen food with junk”, meaning Big Kids’ rate of sale had likely been low.

Cost pressures could also have played a role, the source added, as Ella’s frozen products were “way less processed” than the core range, leaving “less room to cost engineer”.

It comes after Marks & Spencer overhauled its babyfood offer, delisting the entire Ella’s Kitchen range in favour of lines by smaller rival Piccolo, as reported by The Grocer.

M&S made the surprise move of axing its entire range of own-label babyfood in spring 2018, replacing it with Ella’s.

However, Piccolo is now M&S’s “exclusive baby pouch supplier”, marking “an important shift in the category”, according to the brand.