Burton's Foods is expanding its biscuits portfolio into savoury snacks by teaming up with Unilever's Bertolli brand.

Bertolli Savoury Nibbles plays on the strengths of both partners by promoting the natural qualities of Bertolli extra virgin olive oil and Burton's expertise in baking and producing under licence.

"This is an opportunity for Burton's to extend its presence in the category beyond sweet biscuits into savoury," said marketing director Jaspal Chada. "Bertolli is a well-established and highly trusted brand, authentically Italian and associated with the natural goodness of olive oil."

Burton's hopes the new range, which is hand-baked in Italy using Bertolli olive oil, will shake up the savoury biscuit sector, which is currently worth £294m [Nielsen 52 w/e 30 December 2006].

The sector is currently in decline, but both players believe there is a gap at the premium end for lines with natural ingredients. "The savoury biscuits market has been neglected and there is an opportunity to reinvigorate it," said Burton's category controller Sue Garfitt. "Consumers are avoiding foods with artificial ingredients and demand is being led by natural ingredients, with organic playing a big part. Consumers are seeking savoury snacks with very natural flavours."

The Bertolli Savoury Nibbles range is presented as three different variants: Bruschettine - little toasted bread slices flavoured with rosemary & sea salt or basil & parmesan; Focaccine - crisp bread pieces in garlic & parsley or tomato & oregano flavours; and Pepite - crunchy little bread bites in Italian cheese & red onion flavour. The products range in size from 150g to 200g and are priced at £1.59 each, although a short-term launch promotion offers them at two for £2.

The packs will go in stores from 2 April, starting with Waitrose, and the launch will be supported by a £1.2m campaign over the next six months, covering TV sponsorship, consumer press and sampling activity.

Additions to the rangeshould follow later.