Marks & Spencer has unveiled its new Italian food offer in stores – the retailer’s biggest ever food range launch.

The 50-line range, which was a year in the making, is being supported by a new ad campaign featuring a voiceover by Only Fools and Horses star David Jason.

M&S’s food business has been suffering sales declines, but a spokeswoman said the Italian range was representative of the retailer’s determination to keep on innovating.

As well as prepared meals, the range features products such as pastas and oils designed to appeal to shoppers who enjoy cooking.

In July, M&S reported first-quarter food like-for-likes down 4.5 per cent, prompting the departure of director of food Steve Esom and his replacement by John Dixon.

As well as reinforcing M&S’s reputation for premium food, Dixon has acted to emphasise the retailer’s value credentials with the introduction of promotions such as “wise buys”.

Analysts believe such initiatives may give much-needed impetus to M&S’s food sales as value-conscious shoppers increasingly seek out bargains.

M&S will next update on sales on October 2.

♦ M&S’s Marble Arch flagship is having its external face washed for the first time in 25 years. The clean-up involves a technique that uses no water or chemicals and leaves no dust. It is claimed that the method is 50 per cent cheaper than conventional methods.