Xotiq's ambient south-east Asian meal kits are spicing up the shelves in independents, butchers, delicatessens, farm shops and garden centres. Richard Ford finds out more

Xotiq may sound like the title of a raunchy top-shelf magazine, but the people behind the name have rather more respectable intentions.

The brainchild of Richard Cockayne and Simon Lister (above), Xotiq is in fact a Warwickshire-based food company that produces ambient meal kits inspired by south-east Asian cuisine.

Launched January last year, Xotiq isn't the only meal-kit company to have made an appearance in the market. Ainsley Harriott's six-strong range of branded dinner kits, which include Lebanese, Kashmiri and Vietnamese dishes, has entered the fray. And PurAsia, also a six-strong range, is Mars Foods' first new brand launch in nine years.

Lister, however, doesn't see these rival offerings as a bad thing. Quite the opposite in fact. "When you've got more and more people in the same market, it raises awareness," he says.

Lister and Cockayne decided to concentrate on food from south-east Asia to give them a point of difference from other kits. Xotiq offers four country-specific meat and rice recipes, all the inspiration of former Masterchef finalist Daksha Mistry: kaeng ayutthaya, a Thai sweet and sour dish; Malaysian saté nyony, marinated meat cooked on or off the skewer; a Vietnamese lemongrass and chilli stir-fry; and rujak, an Indonesian paprika and turmeric dish with coconut cream. All have an rsp of £3.49.

The kits contain rice, stock, accompaniments, spice paste and dipping sauces - everything a shopper needs to produce a meal for two, except meat and vegetables.

Currently, Xotiq's kits are stocked in indies, farm shops, butchers, delis and garden centres.

While the company has approached the big four in the past, and would welcome a listing in the likes of Waitrose, it's the indies that hold the key to short-term success, says Lister. "Indies are always looking to stock something different, something that will give the consumer a reason to go to them instead of the multiples, and Xotiq meets the brief," he says. "Butchers, in particular, are proving a good market because there's an obvious linked purchase for them."

While Lister concedes that, financially, his first year in business has felt like "push-starting a train", Xotiq has only gone through what any new company goes through in its first few months, he says.

Plus, he assures, he has some innovative tricks up his sleeve.

For one, the striking colours featured on the packaging of the meal kits are similar to the colours in which iPods are available - a move designed to capture the imagination of the gadget-conscious consumer.

The MP3 link doesn't stop there. Xotiq is planning to post downloadable cooking instructions on its website that can play on an MP3 player. There are also plans for visual clips to show what the food, at various stages in the cooking process, ought to look like.

Lessons in the taste of the Xotiq that Lister hopes will get pulses racing.