ella's kitchen

Marks & Spencer has made the surprise move of axing its entire range of own label babyfood, replacing it with the category’s leading brand, Ella’s Kitchen.

From this week, all 16 M&S own label lines will be taken off shelves in favour of Ella’s – which will be the retailer’s only range of babyfood.

Making its food debut in M&S, the brand is rolling out a 19-strong ambient range of pouches nationwide via a new partnership with distributor RH Amar in an initial 250-store deal. The lineup caters to feeding stages one, two and three and includes the brand’s two most popular smoothies, The Red One and The Purple One.

The switch to branded babyfood marks a major departure for M&S, which is known for its strong focus on own label. Branded food and household goods make up “around 1% of total lines across the store”, according to its website.

It also comes just four years after M&S unveiled a new selection of own-label pouches under the banner Tiny Taste Buds, aimed at children aged from six months.

M&S said it made the decision to axe own label because “we felt our customers would prefer a renowned, specialist babyfood brand like Ella’s Kitchen”.

The retailer’s homecare & international brands buyer Lewis Jackson added M&S was “very selective” about the brands it worked with. “Ella’s Kitchen will be a great addition to our offering for parents, whether making planned or impulse purchases of babyfood.”

RH Amar marketing director Simon Fry hailed “a great deal for Ella’s Kitchen and M&S”.

He added: “Both are well-loved brands, and Ella’s Kitchen is the babyfood brand parents most want to see.”

Ella’s was the top brand in its category last year, with value sales surging 11.4% to £64.9m in ­grocery [Nielsen 52 w/e 9 September 2017].