turkey giant Bernard Matthews is planning a major incursion into the chicken category this year - doubling its chicken production and launching a range of added-value products.

The company has had a small chicken farming operation for some years - accounting for less than 10% of its total sales - focusing on contract growing for other chicken producers. It now wants to develop its own range of branded and own-label chicken products, with a view to doubling its chicken business over the next few years.

It has already secured a major supermarket listing from next month for an own-label cooked and sliced chicken product, and plans more own-label chicken launches before unveiling a new, Bernard Matthews-branded chicken range in the autumn.

“Turkey is core to our business but we also want to fully utilise our product portfolio and agricultural assets,” said CEO Rob Burnett, adding any new chicken products could be made using empty capacity in the company’s fresh, frozen, breaded and cooked poultry facilities.

Chicken currently represented less than 10% of the company’s total sales, Burnett said, but offered a “very large” opportunity for growth “if we get our product innovation right”.

Bernard Matthews will go head to head with the likes of Moy Park and 2 Sisters Food Group, but Burnett said there would be minimal financial outlay for the company.

“Most of the infrastructure required was already in place,” he said. “We can use the skills and facilities we already have to add value and innovation to the category.”

Bernard Matthews’ move into chicken comes as it is to embark on a second rebranding in less than two years. The company has hired consultancy Brand Opus to unveil a new brand identity in the summer.