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Ainsley's alliance: Simon Mowbray reports on one company which is more than pleased to have stepped out with a celebrity. (Focus on: cooking sauces).

Teaming up with a TV chef or celebrity, that's like obtaining a licence to print money, isn't it? One company in the know, MH Foods, is adamant there's more to it than that.

The north Kent based manufacturer has been making a range of Ainsley Harriott sauces and marinades for around two years now and has seen the range grow into a 2m [pounds sterling]-a-year sales success with further growth still predicted. Now made up of eight sauces and marinades--including the appetisingly named Hotshot and Hickory. Dickory varieties--the company says the range is positioned at the "upper end of mainstream", retailing at a recommended price point of 1.99 [pounds sterling] for a 300ml pot.

Indeed, the transformation from new brand to a product holding its own in the four big multiples has been swift and started following a meeting between MH Foods and Mr Harriott where both sides realised they could work together.

Fred Key, MD of MH Foods, says: "Ainsley discussed his ideas for a sauce brand with us and came up with some recipes. He was extremely enthusiastic at every step and also very patient as we perfected his recipes on a manufacturing basis. The sauces and marinades have been incredibly successful and have increased our turnover by a third. We see no reason why that will not continue to grow even further."

However, Key is also aware of the `too many cooks...' adage and adds: "We intend to steer well away from what the other celebrity chefs are doing. There is still plenty of scope within the grocery arena for more innovation and there is room for everyone."

MH Foods' plans this year for the Ainsley Harriott products under its stewardship (dressings, olive oil and balsamic vinegar also feature) include an overhaul of the current packaging design.
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Author:Mowbray, Simon
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 18, 2003
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