UK fresh prepared foods and produce company Geest has announced that it has launched a new joint venture business in one of the fastest growing areas of the fresh ready meals market.

Geest RFG Fresh Cook is a 50:50 joint venture with Rannoch Food Group, a specialist added value chicken supplier.

The new business will produce ready to cook meals using raw ingredients - demand for which is growing rapidly. The joint venture will combine the existing ready-to-cook meals businesses of Geest and Rannochs and is expected to generate sales of £20m (US$36.7m) in its first full trading year in 2005.

The business will be based at Geest's Holbeach site in Lincolnshire and will create over 100 new jobs.

"The ready to cook meals sector is growing at around 25%, over three times the rate of the fresh ready meals market. The Fresh Cook venture allows Geest to develop its revenue stream in this fast growing market sector at a low capital cost, by combining two specialists in their own fields: quality chicken sourcing and processing from Rannochs together with Geest's fresh prepared foods manufacturing and new product development expertise," said Gareth Voyle, chief executive officer of Geest.