Marks & Spencer has launched a price comparison advertising campaign targeting Waitrose’s Essentials range, the first time the retailer has adopted the tactic against its close competitor.

The ads run under the strapline “Price checked against Waitrose Essentials. Quality checked by M&S” and promote M&S’s Wise Buys lines. Products such as cornflakes, baked beans and mince are among those featured.

The marketing drive follows impressive growth by Waitrose. The most recent TNS data showed growth of 11.6% - Waitrose’s highest since the summer of 2006, helped by Essentials. Analysts believe M&S has suffered from Waitrose’s advance.

A Marks & Spencer spokesperson said: “We’ve price-checked our Wise Buys products against the Waitrose Essential range to highlight their exceptional value.

“For example within a basket of 1,200 products M&S is typically 2% cheaper than Waitrose – it’s only right that our customers hear this message loud and clear.”

Wise Buys were introduced by M&S food boss John Dixon, one of the internal candidates being considered to succeed Sir Staurt Rose as chief executive.