Greencore, the European private-label food group, has set its sights on entering the US within two years, the company told just-food today (9 April).

The Ireland-based firm, which makes a range of convenience foods, is looking to expand outside its key markets of the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Retail Congress in Barcelona, David Simons, a non-executive director at Greencore, told just-food that the US is a “prime target” for the business.

“The US is more attractive for chilled foods than it used to be ten to 15 years ago, with microwaveable meals and so on,” Simons said. “We have had people working on this for 18 months now and we are looking at a small acquisition and to grow and develop that business.”

Compared to certain markets in the UK and Europe, the private-label category in the US is under-developed due to the relative fragmentation of the retail sector across the Atlantic.

Bryan Roberts, global research retail manager for analysts Planet Retail, said the “penetration” of private-label products into a country’s retail sector “mirrors the saturation of a marketplace”.

“The US is still extremely fragmented and Wal-Mart, the biggest player there, still only accounts for 10-12% of the grocery sector,” Roberts said. “There’s still a great resilience in the independent sector and strong regional chains.”

Simons said the US “could be massive” for Greencore and he said there are “three or four” targets the company is “actively” looking at.

“The next big opportunity for us – and where we are spending a lot of time and a lot of money – is finding opportunities to develop the US market,” Simons said.

Simons refused, however, to reveal the identity of Greencore’s US targets.