The launch of a crinkle-cut range by Walkers has prompted a claim that the brand “clones” rival crisp products.

Walkers is to roll out Walkers Crinkles in April, a move it claimed would be the biggest category launch of the past five years.

The reason? It claimed the crinkle-cut market is underdeveloped in the UK compared with the US, where it accounts for 30% of crisps sold by Walkers owner PepsiCo. “This is a strong indication of the potential of Crinkles in the UK,” said Walkers marketing director Miranda Sambles.

But Claire Nuttall, strategy director at branding agency 1HQ, believes the launch is strategic, and targeted at rivals closer to home; Walkers positioning new ranges to “pick off key category offers with ­relevant alternatives”.

“Walkers is identifying key players and product types and creating a clone Walkers version,” she said.

Walkers had already taken on McCoy’s with its thicker ridged Walkers Max crisps and was now challenging Seabrook crinkle crisps, Nuttall claimed. Sales of the Sea­brook brand have risen 25.1% year-on-year to £41.6m [Symphony-IRI 52w/e 22 January 2011].

Walkers denied the accusation, pointing out that PepsiCo had a similar product to Walkers Crinkles in the US called Lays Wavy. Walkers Max was different “from any other product on the market in terms of thickness and shape of cut”, added Sambles.

Available in Simply Sea Salted, Cheddar & Onion, Salt & Malt Vinegar and Sweet Chilli flavours, Walkers Crinkles will be priced at 43p for 32g single-serve packs and £1.59 for six-pack multipacks.