The New Covent Garden Food Company is making its debut in premium ready meals with a new range of indulgent chilled dishes.
The company hopes the six-strong collection will grab consumers' attention and steal share from more established brands, particularly WeightWatchers and Champneys, as it targets consumers who are looking to manage their weight and eat more healthily.
Positioned as a healthy gastropub-style option, the range, which includes a Moroccan lamb with chickpea and a salmon and crayfish variety, can be frozen. It is launched exclusively in Sainsbury's this month, each single-portion dish with an rsp of £3.79.
The move is intended to build on New Covent Garden's heritage in chilled soup and consumer perception of it as a healthy brand. It has already extended the brand into risottos, launched 18 months ago.
"This is one of our most significant brand stretch developments and it will stimulate fresh consumer interest in ready meals," said Andrew Ovens, group marketing manager.
The company has earmarked a £250,000 marketing campaign to back the launch this month, with press advertising and posters in Sainsbury's stores and in women's magazines.
Ovens predicts the range, which uses only fresh, natural ingredients, contains no artificial additives or flavourings and, like other New Covent Garden products, features traffic light labelling on the front of pack, will do well. "We expect the range to be worth more than £5m by the end of the year - and that will be just through Sainsbury's," he said.
The company hopes the range will attract younger consumers to a premium ready meals market growing 20% year-on-year, according to Ovens. It hopes to expand distribution and is in talks with Tesco and Somerfield, which stock its fresh soups and risottos.
The other four varieties are: chicken in Madeira sauce; meatballs and Mediterranean vegetables; chicken, tomato and olive, and chicken mozzarella