Frozen ready meals retailer Cook is planning to open four stores in the next four weeks, pushing its burgeoning estate to the 30-store mark for the first time.

The independent retailer, which already operates 27 stores across London and the south east, opened the first of the new stores in Epping, Essex, yesterday. The store replaced a Cook in nearby Loughton that closed last week after three years of trading.

Cook will also open a small store at its factory in Sittingbourne next week followed by outlets in East Grinstead and Haywards Heath next month.

Founder Edward Perry said Loughton had closed because he had received an offer from Specsavers for the site that he couldn’t refuse. “The store was in a premium location but wasn’t one of our top-performing stores,” he added.

Once the new stores have opened, Cook will have hit its target of 10 new stores this year, which was set following the opening of its £2.5m ‘kitchen’ factory a year ago. Perry said he was now finalising plans for a further site, which would take the total to 11.

Meanwhile, Cook’s wholesale business, which sells Cook branded products to about 120 independents and farm shops, is trading 90% up year-on-year.

“I don’t know why we didn’t do this years ago,” Perry said. “There is no other proposition like it for independents and it’s the right offer for them.” Cook would only offer the range to independents, he added.