Mars has axed its PurAsia brand after the ethnic meal kit range - its first new brand in nine years - failed to win over its target 'gastrosexual' market.

The two Indian, two Thai and two Chinese kits were launched into Tesco last autumn for a nine-month period. The exclusive listing was intended to create a loyal following rather than generate mass-market appeal and turn PurAsia into a premium brand.

But despite a £1m campaign supported by former England rugby star and Celebrity MasterChef winner Matt Dawson, Mars admitted this week that the range had now been pulled from shelves following disappointing sales.

"We have decided to withdraw PurAsia from the marketplace as we did not achieve the sales levels that we had planned," said ­marketing director Paul Aikens.

Mars had hoped the six-strong range would bridge the gap between traditional cooking sauces and restaurant-quality food and tap into the dining-in trend. But the £3.29 price tag proved too costly for shoppers in the recession.

When the range was launched, Nisa-Today's category controller Nigel Ashton questioned the premium price tag.

"The price is far too high at £3.29 per kit, given that you have to add meat, vegetables and other ingredients such as coconut milk. You are looking at an £8 meal all-in, as opposed to £1.29 to £1.49 for one of the other ethnic sauces out there, many of which have more than reasonable delivery."

Another source at a rival food manufacturer said the meal kits had not resonated with money-conscious consumers in the recession. "If these products had been launched two years ago, the economic climate might have been better," he said. "But right now, it's hard to ask consumers to pay more to end up with the same korma that they would get with a cheaper sauce."

The launch was prompted by research conducted for Mars by the Future Foundation, which found that the new 'gastrosexuals' tended to be upwardly mobile men, aged 25 to 44, who cooked for family and friends as a hobby.