New Covent Garden is pinning hopes of a return to sales growth on its debut national TV campaign, starting this week.

The soup company is investing £1.5m on the month-long advertising push part of a record annual marketing budget of £5m for the brand.

It has previously run regional TV ads but said a national campaign was required to emphasise the freshness of New Covent Garden soup's ingredients and boost sales among younger consumers.

Sales of the chilled soup brand have dipped 3.9% to £59.5m over the past year [Nielsen 52w/e October 2010]. Strong sales growth from rival chilled soups has also hit sales with Glorious! soups recording a massive 87.2% growth to £4.4m last year [Nielsen].

Nick Munby, senior brand manager, admitted that appealing to an audience beyond its loyalist "empty nesters" was essential to hit growth targets. "We experienced declines in the summer of 2010 as we pulled away from promotions but household penetration is our number one priority," said Munby. "That's what the £5m investment is all about."

In a bid to reinforce the fresh message of New Covent Garden's ingredients, the new ad shows a white line hunting out the freshest vegetable ingredients and then forming a carton shape around them.

Munby said the ­advert heralded a new marketing message for the brand. "Previously, we have focused on highlighting the health aspect of our soups but times and consumer perceptions have changed and health has been subsumed in the overall fresh message."