Marks and Spencer is to rebrand its stand-alone neighbourhood food stores as Marks & Spencer Food as part of its push on the grocery market.

M&S is to convert 26 existing stores over the next two years under the new fascia, the first of which is to open in London’s Canary Wharf next week. A further six should be completed by the group’s year-end next March.

The move - backed by £150m - is to distinguish the stores from its smaller format Simply Food stores and its traditional shops which focus on clothing.

M&S executive director of food, Justin King, said: “We needed to water down the Simply Food idea but tell customers the stores were still part of the Marks and Spencer family.”

The group’s head of food formats, Jill Bruce, has identified airports and motorway service stations as potential Simply Food sites.

M&S has already said it plans to open 150 Simply Food stores across the country by 2005-2006.