Company information

Ready for success

Ready meals were once the object of some derision. Supermarket shelves were once lined with flavourless pastas and watery curries that were, for many, an option to be used only when cooking wasn’t feasible.

But then in the mid-1990s, that began to change. A new range of meals began to appear on the shelves, their flavours robust and ingredients well-sourced. Charlie Bigham was only 28 years old when he set up his eponymous food brand. By 2012, it was worth £14m in retail sales. Today, the brand is worth £70m in retail sales.

“We make delicious food and show that convenience doesn’t mean that you have to compromise,” says Patrick Cairns, CEO of Bigham’s. The company maintains a sharp focus on product quality, sourcing the freshest ingredients that are turned into meals, such as fish pies and lasagnes, in kitchens that amount to scaled up versions of what one is used to at home.

Patrick says customers keep returning: “Consumers are more discerning about their choice of food. They appreciate genuine quality and are prepared to pay for it. Grocery retailers have responded to this by providing a greater variety of high-quality offerings. And we have significantly improved the distribution of our recipes.”

The goal now, for the company, is to double its business by 2023. “We still have a relatively small household market penetration, so our mission is to get more people to try our food,” says Patrick.

But there are risks in doing so. Part of Bigham’s core philosophy is a refusal to compromise on its produce. It’s this attention to quality that means consumers are still willing to pay an extra pound to eat well-made food.

“Our greatest challenge is how to scale our business without losing our unique and differentiating quality,” Patrick says. “We have overcome this through a purpose-built kitchen in a beautiful disused quarry in Somerset. We have been able to build from scratch the ideal environment and capability to grow.”