by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Henderson Wholesale has responded to a sharp rise in consumer demand for convenient fresh meals by investing an extra £120,000 into the recipe development, brand and packaging of The CHEF range of locally made, premium pre-prepared meals. Identifying a fast-growing trend as shoppers seek homecooked meals with a difference, the Fresh team at Henderson Group which owns the SPAR, EUROSPAR and ViVO brands in Northern Ireland are responding to the growing trend for convenient fresh food that saves shoppers prep time, but still delivers a freshly cooked, premium dish.


Henderson Retail has reported the amount of The CHEF meals being picked up in its stores doubled in the past year, with over 10,000 meals being sold per week. In 2020, sales grew by over 30% throughout all own-brand pre-prepared meals compared to the previous year, positioning the retailer as the destination for choice and convenience during lockdown.

This growth in demand meant that sales of all own-brand ranges and pre-prepared products offered by Henderson Wholesale, rocketed to over £14M in the past year.

Neal Kelly, Fresh Food Director at Henderson Wholesale which currently distributes the range to over 70 SPAR and EUROSPAR stores in Northern Ireland commented; “Our own brand proposition developed with local suppliers is second to none. Sales growth in the past year shows consumer behaviour is changing. Shoppers are looking for those simple yet full of flavour solutions to give themselves a night off cooking and our retailers are experiencing the benefit of that because they are choosing to shop locally instead of travel to larger supermarkets.

“Building the Henderson Kitchen and continuing to invest in it, Chef Carl Johannesson and his team and the products, has given us the freedom to create exactly what shoppers are looking for, now that we’ve seen such a change in the way people are shopping, cooking and eating. The range encompasses handmade mains and sides, meals for one and well-rounded Under 500 calorie meals as a nutritious lunch option, all using flavours from around the world, made with the best ingredients in collaboration with local suppliers.”

A £100,000 investment reflects the growing team of 24 now employed at the purpose-built and expanding Henderson Kitchen facilities, as well as six new products to make up the 36 products which are live in the range. The most recent additions to The CHEF include two new Under 500 Calorie options, and four new meals for one.

Chef Carl Johannesson who heads-up Henderson Kitchen and was part of the creative force that established The CHEF with his team added; “The recipe development for our new products comes from shopper feedback, taste testing and food trends that we take inspiration from. Our team has over 25 years of experience to put into creating a premium range to enjoy at home, is packed full of flavours from around the world and uses great ingredients to make it. There is quite simply no other proposition on the market right now that compares to The CHEF.”

The investment figure also includes a £20,000 new, premium look for the brand which celebrates the restaurant-level quality of the products, at convenient prices. The new packaging also represents a commitment to sustainability with the sleeves and trays of each product now 100% recyclable.

The wholesaler continues to champion local suppliers, with Bradmount Foods, K&G McAtamney, Daily Bake and Elmore Fish all providing ingredients for the range.

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Gareth McAnlis, Food Development Manager at Henderson Wholesale with Chef Carl Johannesson, Head Chef at the Henderson Kitchen

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