Ambient ready meals haven’t been a huge focus of innovation in the UK market. There’s Symington’s new brand Twistd and American outfit Loma Linda that is attempting to push into the category with its ready meal vegan offering, but it’s not really an area that consumers are excited about when they look for their evening meal.
Mars Food is trying to break into this area by launching a new meat-free brand into the UK called Tasty Bite. The brand was actually created over 25 years ago in India, and brought by Mars in 2017, with the products made on 23-acre farm outside Pune, south-west India.
A year in development, the six vegetable-based recipes rolled into Tesco and Asda late last month, providing “bold, modern and great-tasting Indian dishes” with a modern street food twist, according to Mars.
The range consists of tikka masala, a chunky vegetable curry simmered with cashews in a creamy sauce, korma vegetable with potatoes, carrots, corn and onions in a sweet and savoury coconut sauce, and Punjabi lentil with lentils and red kidney beans slow-cooked in a tomato sauce with onions and a blend of spices.
Also included is a vindaloo with vegetables simmered in a tomato-based sauce, Bombay chickpea that comes with a blend of onions, tomatoes and aromatic spices, along with the Delhi potato and chickpea curry.
The meals can be served with rice, naan, a wrap or salad, said Mars. All the products can be prepared in 60 seconds – offering convenience – and come with an RRP of £1.99 for a 285g pouch.
Tasty Bite taps into the growing trend for consumers looking for meat-free or vegetarian meal options, added the company.
“We’re thrilled to be bringing a modern twist on the traditional Indian curry to families across the UK,” said Clare Dawson, marketing director at Mars Food UK. “Tasty Bite not only tastes delicious, but it’s created in India using responsibly sourced local ingredients. We’re all about delivering delicious meals that meet the needs of UK consumers and we think Tasty Bite is going to become a firm favourite.”
The launch will be backed by a sampling campaign as part of an ambition to drive Tasty Bite to be one of the nation’s favourite brands similar to Uncle Ben’s and Dolmio, said Dawson.
A hunger for Indian
Indian food is a winner in the ready meal category too. Value sales of Indian ready meals were worth £436.7m across grocery, having added 4.3% last year, according to figures from Nielsen.
But Mars Food is following the boom that began 18 months ago, with a number of Indian inspired street food already hitting shelves.
Iceland kicked it off in January last year with an Indian street food range with 16 options called Mumbai Street Co, with meals such as the Keralan pulled chicken made with creamy coconut sauce, red peppers and spinach, and the Calcutta kale bhaji.
Meanwhile, Waitrose targeted the lunchtime crowd with an Indian-inspired brunch wrap and Tikka Spiced Chicken & Cauliflower Rice Salad.
Even children have been able to dip into this culinary playground with Nom Noms World Food launching a ready meal of North Indian spinach butter chicken with pea pilau rice into Co-op last year that was aimed at youngsters, while Annabel Karmel and Little Dish both have chicken tikka options.
In May, Quorn also released ambient strips in a spicy tikka flavour.
So is Sparkie feeling spicy for the Tasty Bites ambient range?
I think that the idea of an ambient meal may be still looked upon with some scepticism. They might have to go a long way to explain how this is done in order for consumers to accept that the meal is good quality.
I do think as far as being innovative goes they have missed the mark really when it comes to using Indian street food flavours. The market already has a lot of similar offerings and they then have to go and compete with the chilled and frozen, which potentially have a better reputation. Natural is still very much an important buzz word. However, their story is on trend so maybe it can work.