Rivals have rubbished Heinz's claim that the axing of its chilled Farmers' Market products this week was because of an overall drop in fresh soup sales.

Category leader New Covent Garden Food said the range had been doomed from the start. "It launched with extensive price cutting support which generated initial trial, but repeat purchases have been consistently low," said Nigel Parrott, NCGF group MD.

Heinz said the decision was due to the trend towards ambient and "came as the chilled soups category had started to slow".