Procter & Gamble is responding to the recent relaunch of Walkers' Sensations by further pushing the premium credentials of its Pringles brand.

The company is developing a Pringles Gourmet range, with the flavours expec­ted to closely mimic those already found in the pre­mium hand-cooked potato crisp category in brands such as Tyrrells and Kettle Chips.

Variants are likely to include sea salt & black pepper, flame grilled steak & caramelised onion and spicy Thai chilli with lemongrass.

The range is expected to hit shelves on 23 July.

The move will continue P&G's drive into the pre­mium end of the category.  At the beginning of the year it added Light Aromas to the Pringles portfolio, which it described as a healthier offshoot in more authentic and premium ­flavours. Three varieties were launched - Thai with a touch of coconut oil; Greek-style cheese with a touch of avocado oil; and red pepper with a touch of olive oil extract - with 33% less fat than the standard product.

Spencer Playle, crisps and snacks buyer at Sainsbury, said he expected companies to put more emphasis on premium snacking products this year.

"The key growth to this area will be a combination of tackling the declines due to health issues and also continuing to nurture the premium and indulgent sectors that are already ­experiencing decent value growth," he said.

P&G will be looking to return Pringles to growth after a disappointing performance last year, in which the brand fell 8.2% in value to £120m, [ACNielsen 52 w/e 1 October,2005].

Extensions to the Pringles portfolio and the launch of a Mini variant in July last year are expected to boost sales for 2006.

According to figures published this week in The Grocer, the crisps, nuts and snacks category grew in value by 3.3%, driven by a growth in premium and healthier snacking products [TNS 52 w/e 26 March 2006].