Princes is launching a premium canned range in a bid to revitalise the brand and inject value into the struggling category.

The range will still be branded Princes but will feature distinctive silver labelling to distinguish the premium offer from its core range. The launch will kick off this month with a premium skinless and boneless Alaskan salmon, priced £2.79 for a 180g can, followed by a 340g lean deli ham with an rsp of £1.99.

It is understood that Princes plans to roll the premium offer out to all categories, including canned fruit, during 2008.

The Princes brand, currently worth £225m, suffered a blow last year when Asda food trading director Darren Blackhurst said that Princes was not a true brand and ditched its tuna in favour of John West.

The launch is expected to add some much-needed value into the category. "The category has been in the doldrums for the two years I've worked in it, so there's plenty for Princes to go at," said one canned category buyer. "There have been a few attempts to add value that haven't done much. The category is wide open for this sort of premiuum move and Princes is well placed."

The launch follows extensive research that revealed consumers were willing to pay more for products they deemed discernibly different or providing an added benefit, even within the canned category. As part of its premium drive, Princes is also extending its range of microwaveable fish pouch packs to chicken in the coming months.

"There's growing demand for premium products in the ambient and canned category," said marketing director Neil Brownbill. "With a household penetration of 70%, Princes is well positioned to take the lead in premium new product development."

The range will be supported by part of a £4m marketing investment in the Princes brand this year, building on the existing Yours to Enjoy campaign.

Spending on premium food and drink is forecast to top £20bn by 2012, according to IGD research.