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Fieldfare and ready meal producer ByRuby sign distribution deal

Posted: 1 December 2023

Matt Whelan. Fieldfare and Milly Bagot, ByRuby
Matt Whelan. Fieldfare and Milly Bagot, ByRuby

Loose frozen food company Fieldfare has penned a distribution deal with ready meal brand ByRuby, which it says will allow it to to offer independents a complete selection of high-end frozen food. The companies will continue to operate independently, but Fieldfare will oversee distribution and sales within the independent market.

The frozen meals will make for a “complementary” offer for Fieldfare’s existing or prospective customers, managing director Matt Whelan told FFD.

“The opportunity will be that we’ve got this broader range – the delivery that we have could arrive with both products, so it would be a simple receipt of goods.”

A relative newcomer to the sector, ByRuby launched in 2018 with its range of freshly cooked ready meals, using ingredients from suppliers to the restaurant industry and independent retail. Direct-to-consumer sales made up the bulk of its turnover while it built up trade within the independent sector.

It began supplying Booths in 2021, was bought by premium ready meal giant Charlie Bigham’s in September last year and struck a deal to sell in selected Waitrose stores in December.

The decision for Fieldfare to partner with ByRuby, Whelan said, reflects a shared ethos of selling frozen food driven by quality rather than price.

“That’s the parallel between both businesses – with any new products, we always ask whether it is truly delicious, and we don’t want to launch it if it isn’t.”

Fieldfare briefly sold its own frozen ready meals in 2020, but chose to focus on its ‘by the item’, minimal waste concept.

“We became very purposeful around delicious, loose, frozen food, where customers can have as much as they want but no more than they need – and meals, from our brand perspective, didn’t fit with that.”

The focus will initially be to sell ByRuby to existing Fieldfare customers who don’t have a ready meal offer, before looking further afield at customers that have neither.

“I see lots of opportunity for delicious frozen in independents. We’re not in every single farm shop, fine food hall or garden centre by any stretch and I think that’s an exciting opportunity – and I think the same for ByRuby.”

This article first appeared in the December 2023 edition of Fine Food Digest.