Elior-owned contract caterer Avenance has revealed it is planning to enter the NHS market.
Simon Pollard, managing director of the group's education and healthcare division, said he believed the time was right for a new player in the sector. "There has been a lot of pressure recently on hospitals to provide fresh food, which will snowball over time," he said.
As part of the move, the group is putting together a report on the role of nutrition in the healing process, which it hopes to build into its business model.
The company does not plan to reduce its costs and will pitch itself at a similar upmarket level to its business and industry division.
Some observers believe it could be a risky move. Food service consultant Chris Stern said: "It's not an obvious fit. They've got to be careful because if it goes wrong it could impact on their image."