Fresh soup pioneer New Covent Garden Soup Co has been delisted by Tesco - a year after the retailer launched its own chilled soup brand.

The retailer removed NCG - credited with creating the fresh soup category when it launched 25 years ago - as part of a winter range review that took effect last week.

“Tesco believe they can grow the category without the leading brand,” said Rob Dixon, marketing controller at NCG owner Hain Daniels, which acquired the brand a year ago.

New Covent Garden - which has fallen 8.3% by value year-on-year [Nielsen 52w/e 13 October] - has been under intense pressure from rival chilled soups - and particularly own label. The latter has risen 8.3% by value year-on-year while brands have grown just 3.3% [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 5 August 2012].

The situation has been compounded by the rollout of Tesco’s New York Soup Co brand a year ago - a range expanded in recent weeks with the Fully Loaded sub-brand of chunky fresh soups. When it was launched, industry observers predicted New York Soup Co would be bad news for the Hain Daniels brand.

“You will need to speak to Tesco to understand whether New York Soup Co had an impact on the New Covent Garden decision,” said Dixon, adding that - in Tesco - sales of NCG had been £10.8m in the past year compared with £2.9m for New York Soup Co [Nielsen 52 w/e October 13 2012]. “However, clearly Tesco has made a decision to invest in their own tertiary brands,” he added.

Tesco would only comment: “We regularly review our range to reflect changes in the products customers buy.”

News of the delisting comes just a month after NCG revamped its packaging - its second redesign in just over a year. From 5 November, the brand will be launching a £2m TV push, direct marketing campaign and outdoor advertising.

Quarterly figures already showed the brand back in growth, said Dixon, with supermarket sales up 12.7% year-on-year [Nielsen 12w/e 15 September].

NCG - which uses square cartons - had missed a trick when the pot format used by New York Soup Co started to emerge, said Claire Nuttall, partner at branding agency Thrive. “This has been key to competitor brands gaining integrity and stealing a lead.Covent Garden needs to get back to basics and behave like a challenger brand, which is what it has become,” she said. “Tesco’s decision to delist is a major sign of it being make or break time.”