UK children's meal producer Little Dish has said it is plans to look at expanding into new European markets.

Speaking at the Food & Drink Expo in Birmingham today (26 March), sales director Andy O'Brien told just-food that the company has listing across the UK and in Ireland but was investigating expanding further afield.

"Looking at exports is one of the big reasons we are here," O'Brien said. "Chilled foods can have an impact on exporting too far overseas, but we're looking at how we can get into France and Benelux. It will be very challenging and it's not something easily done. We're in Ireland but if we're going to do it somewhere else, we've got to do it well."

O'Brien said the company is growing at 46%, double its nearest competitor Annabelle Karmel, and that it hopes to reach GBP14m in sales by the close of 2012. 

Products set for launch this year, he said, will help drive growth. "Toddler food is by far and away the fastest growing sector in ready meals," O'Brien said. "We are looking heavily at lunch and ready meals to get parents into the five-day per week, and September/October will be our big launch."

The range will comprise 11 variants, including two fish dishes, four beef, three chicken, two vegetarian and a number of rotating SKUs.

Little Dish has listings with Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Ocado. The company, however, is looking to increase its customer base in the UK.

"We are looking to do a huge amount with the current listings we have, but we are also trying to get into more diverse channels such as foodservice as we feel this is a huge opportunity for us with mums. Kids is the fastest growing in every sector, so there is plenty of headroom.”

"O'Brien said, however, that the company will be keeping an eye on commodity costs this year. 

"Commodities impacted us very heavily last year, we had two increases, particularly with protein and egg prices more recently. But it all comes down to how well your suppliers are hedging and ours didn't very well last year," he said. "We have to win on quality and not on pricing. I hope our volumes and efficiencies will offset any commodity increases. Innovation will also help us."