Marks and Spencer took healthy eating into the mainstream this week with the launch of a new range of healthy non-diet ready meals designed with government advice on consumption of calories, fat, sugar and salt in mind.

Some 100 products in the new Eat Well Nutritionally Balanced range have gone into stores. The products, which are assembled by hand rather than machines to enable inclusion of large chunks of veg, will be merchandised alongside similar, standard meals rather than in a section of their own.

The range is a reincarnation of Marks and Spencer's Healthy Balance range, launched in May 2005 and that until this week consisted of 22 products sold as a separate block in-store. These have now migrated into the new line, with scores of extra meals added.

M&S trading executive for prepared foods, Jim Waller, said the idea was to avoid positioning the products as a specialist diet offer, and instead as an everyday option that was designed to help shoppers control their intake of certain nutrients. Pricing would be in line with standard meals to reinforce this. He added: "Healthy Balance was marginalised, and many of our customers did not even know it was there. We believe the new name describes better what the meals are about, and by selling them alongside their full-fat counterparts, we're bringing them into our mainstream offer."

The range offers a variety of meal types, including traditional dishes such as sausage and mash, but also Chinese and Indian recipes.

There are limits on the content of certain nutrients - each meal has one third

of the recommended daily intake of salt, fat, sugar

and calories.

Waller refused to be drawn on whether the range represented M&S's response to the debate over front-of-pack nutritional labelling. M&S has yet to show its hand, although chief

executive Stuart Rose hinted earlier this year that the retailer did not favour the traffic light approach (The Grocer, 15 July, p7).

The new range, produced by eight suppliers - including Northern Foods and Geest RFG Freshcook - will be promoted in a 24-page glossy brochure that will be available in-store and is due to be inserted in this weekend's newspapers.