With fresh single-serve snack pots rapidly gaining ground, some players are so confident their new ranges will hit the spot with consumers that they are calling for a whole new category under which to merchandise products.

Kepak Convenience Foods, which launched Rustlers chilled meat noodle pots in April, wants to see a ‘hot, quick & tasty’ (HQT) category to accommodate microwave snacks, pies, pasties, quick-serve ready meals and chilled soup.

The company, whose brands include Rustlers, Feasters and Zugo’s, has joined forces with Tesco to re-merchandise products including Rustlers Oriental pork and chicken & mushroom noodle pots as one snacking category, and said initial trials had resulted in a 30% increase in overall sales.

“We stepped back from the market and saw that microwaveable snacks were part of a group of chilled, single-serve products that didn’t exist 15 years ago,” says John Armstrong, marketing director at Kepak. “It wasn’t a eureka moment. We’ve researched the needs and motivations of consumers who buy into this category and grouped products together in a logical manner.”

Armstrong reckons the category could grow from an estimated £459m to £1bn in the next 10 years if current consumer trends continue, and with NPD in rice & noodles focusing on microwaveable and convenience formats, the sector is well placed to cash in. “Consumers who are used to buying ambient noodles are really embracing the chilled alternatives in the hot, quick & tasty category,” says Armstrong.

The concept has the backing of Innocent, which says the initiative will “help with shopper missions” and grow the category.

In June, Tesco rolled the concept out in 250 Tesco Extras nationwide, and Kepak says that it is in talks with other major retailers, including Irish chain Henderson Group, which is set to introduce the idea later this year.

“We will continue to respond to shopper missions by working with retailers to develop the hot, quick & tasty category in-store,” says Kepak’s Armstrong. “There’s every indication that the pace of NPD will accelerate the HQT category, which is great news for the growing number of retailers who are embracing the principle.”