Ainsley Harriott has claimed a category first with a range of wet ambient soups in a microwaveable plastic tub format purposely derived from the chilled aisle.

Ainsley’s premium soup range is rolling into Tesco, Morrisons and Asda this week on an introductory £1 offer in six world flavours - Mediterranean Red Pepper, Malaysian Lentil, Tuscan Cherry Tomato, Yorkshire Carrot & Rocket, Red Thai Chicken and Spanish Chorizo & Paprika (rsp: £1.69/465g).

The convenient packaging combined with the diverse range of flavours would drive value into the growing £376.9m wet ambient soup sector, which is up 5.3% in value and 6.2% in volume [Kantar 52 w/e 7 July 2013], said brand owner Symington’s.

Already present in ambient wet soup with its struggling Campbell’s brand - down 15.7% to £9.6m [IRI 52 w/e 17 August 2013], Symington’s said the launch was “key to growing the Ainsley Harriott portfolio”, which comprises dried foods from cup soups and sauce mixes to snack pots.

The celebrity chef brand’s first foray into wet soups would boost sales by attracting “a younger, more affluent consumer,” said marketing controller Andrew Wade. He predicted first-year sales would hit £3m. “The range brings something completely different in terms of functionality and flavours, which will attract new consumers, while offering existing customers an innovative alternative,” he said.

Ainsley Harriott, which accounts for £9.5m of the total soup category with its dry variants [IRI], will be squaring up to brand leader Heinz and Batchelors in the wet ambient sector, as well as pitching itself as against chilled variants. “With ambient soups being such a traditional fixture in the supermarkets, it will be interesting to see how other brands in the category respond,” said Jonathan Helm, account director at design agency Dragon Rouge. “There could be an issue of consumer trust with this packaging format appearing outside the chilled section.”

Symington’s is supporting the launch with press and sampling activity alongside personal appearances by Harriott, and will be extending the range further next year.