Geest said the demand for fresh prepared foods will see the group invest £50m on capital expenditure this year as total sales in the UK and continental Europe go above 10% in the first half.

In the UK Geest expects sales of chilled foods such as bagged salads, ready meals, pizzas, and stir-fries to be 5% ahead of last year and up 15% in continental Europe.

Geest expects underlying operating profit to have grown in the first half but not at the same rate as sales growth due to losses in the pasta business and its acquisition of French salad producer, Crudi.

Geest is due to report interim results on September 11.