The new collection features the famously temperamental kitchen maestro on packaging and is aimed at bringing back value to the frozen category, which continues to face the challenge of getting its message of fresh, high quality food across to the consumer.
This is Findus's first major initiative since it was acquired by former senior manager Geir Frantzen a year ago. The company has yet to confirm its exact line-up but the collection, developed from Novelli's own recipes, will range from lasagne to added value fish dishes and indulgent desserts, with rsps from£2.49 up to £3.49. Lemon/Honey Chicken with Spring Onion Mash has been tipped as the likely best-seller.
The brand is set to hit freezers early in the new year and Findus is in the process of finalising its promotional support.
Buyers have generally welcomed the launch. "It's quality with a capital Q," said a senior buyer for one independent group. "It's a chance to put some value back into frozen foods."
Another raised some concerns with the products' pricing levels, however, particularly as some lines will break the £3 barrier. "Against chilled lines, this price is a bargain," he said. "But getting that message across is difficult. Media support will be crucial."
Vidar Engen, commercial director for Findus, said the price points were necessary because the fish was being sourced from sustainable stocks, adding: "We are absolutely confident we have good products here."
Novelli is no stranger to retail food ventures - a trio of cooking sauces launched two years ago by LB Foods lasted only a season. However, he stressed his commitment to the Findus line: "Freezing is nature's best way of preserving flavours, colours and vitamins."
The path to success in premium frozen meals is strewn with high profile casualties. Greencore's Gary Rhodes range flopped in 1998 and Birds Eye Enjoy! was axed four years ago.