Tesco is exploring ways to dramatically boost its fresh foods offering with a ‘hot house’ availability trial.

During the trial, which is believed to have been running for at least six months, it is analysing the effect of stocking more fresh lines than usual and having more ­manpower to manage availability.

One store manager involved in the trial said his store had added 300 fresh foods lines and was now stocking every single fresh food line available from meat, poultry and dairy to fruit and veg and products on the deli counter. The store had recruited an additional 30 staff over the past six months to help keep shelves filled, he added.

“We’ve now got great availability in the evenings for customers who traditionally spend the most money, and customers tell us they like what we’ve done,” he said.

As a result of improved availability, fresh food sales in his store had gone up 6% three times the 2% increase Tesco management had targeted, the store manager added.

The trial was known as a ‘hot house’ trial because of the close involvement of senior Tesco management, he said. “You get a wave of very senior people looking at the trial and listening through the process,” he added. Four superstores and four Metros had been selected for the trial, he said, and his store would stay in the trial until the end of the year. Tesco would soon decide whether to roll out the concept to other stores, he added.

One supplier claimed Tesco had been prompted to reassess its fresh foods offer by Morrisons’ success with the Market Street format. “I think they’re a bit freaked out by what Morrisons has achieved in fresh, and they’re trying to work out how they can turn fresh into a USP for their own stores,” he said.

Tesco would not comment on the trial or reveal the rationale behind it, but said it recognised fresh foods were an important part of customers’ shopping experiences, and it was always looking at ways to improve its fresh line-up.