New Covent Garden Food Company is venturing into ready meals with Sprout, a new range of chilled vegetarian dishes.

Available in Red Pepper & Spinach Open Ravioli; Root Vegetable & Bean Cassoulet with Cheesy Cobblers; and Three Bean Tostada variants, New Covent Garden said it decided to enter the meat-free ready meal category because the current offerings were blighted by a "lack of innovation and promotional support".

The Sprout range would plug a gap in the meat-free category and target the growing number of consumers who were seeking to reduce their meat consumption, said Andrew Ovens, NCG marketing manager. "Unlike most existing meat-free products, Sprout celebrates vegetarian cuisine rather than mimicking carnivore foods," said Ovens. "The launch comes at a time when many people with an interest in food are incorporating meat-free meals into their diet, without necessarily moving towards vegetarianism."

The dishes would feature on-pack information to reassure meat reducers that the ingredients would meet their dietary needs, he added. "Mainstream vegetable meals are perceived not to meet the specific dietary requirements of many meat reducers, but our range will do so ."

The Sprout launch will be supported by in-store sampling and web-based marketing activity. The range is available now from Waitrose, rsp £2.99.

Sprout will compete against Linda McCartney Foods, which modernised its entire range last month under the new strapline 'Food to come home to'.