Retailers are slashing prices on some of the biggest Christmas confectionery brands, a move that could herald the start of festive season price wars in the category.

The deep discounting has been initiated by Tesco and Sainsbury's, which are both offering 1,257g tins of Nestlé's Quality Street and 1,170g of Masterfoods Celebrations at two for £9 (the usual rsp each is about £7.48) until mid-month.

Meanwhile, Somerfield has knocked £4 off the £9.99 rsp of 1.5kg of Roses until next Tuesday (7 November).

Suppliers are refusing to be drawn into criticism of the retailers, but a spokesman for Masterfoods said the Celebrations price promotion had been initiated "without the support of Masterfoods", while Graham Walker, sales communications manager for Nestlé, confirmed the activity was "retailer-driven".

Deep discounting has the potential to undermine the value of the confectionery category - something suppliers have been keen to preserve in recent years.

The competition is similar to the annual beer price wars, in which the major multiples shave their beer margins to attract new customers and boost footfall.

One industry insider said: "Confectionery suppliers are obviously going to be reluctant to criticise some of their biggest accounts, but you can bet they're not happy about it.

"Consumers will always buy confectionery at Christmas and these brands do big business so there's no need for huge price promotions - however shortlived."

The big confectionery companies have committed to developing products that can command higher prices.

Nestlé is focusing on After Eight and two special Quality Street selections this Christmas, while Cadbury Trebor Bassett has launched Roses Premium Truffles in time for the seasonal sales period.