Northern Foods has played down the significance of reports that sales of its biscuit brand, Fox's, have fallen 6% in the past 12 weeks.

Director of communications Hilary Baker insisted the slump was the result of the company's implementation of a longer-term strategy for the brand, which would bear fruit further down the line.

"Fox's is being more selective about where it is focusing the brand," she said. "We are withdrawing from certain lines which are not profitable or which do not fit into our overall brand strategy. We are also being more selective in targeting our promotional activity. This reduces volumes being sold but also allows us to improve average price."

She added: "We see opportunity for margin upside in the medium term for this business and have strong plans in place to realise this."