Leicester-based Samworth Brothers has won a £4m order to make loaf cakes and cupcakes for Marks & Spencer.

The order is a manufacturing breakthrough for Samworth, as it is the first time it will produce products stored at room temperature, instead of refri- gerated goods. Four flavours of loaf cakes will be supplied by May, when M&S will also start stocking 11 different flavours of cupcakes.

Brian Stein, chief executive of Samworth - a company best known for its pork pies and sausages - said that eating habits had changed dramatically in the past six months. "People have gone back to comfort foods, but are trading down," he said.

The loaf and cupcakes will be made at Samworth’s new factory at Leicester Forest East and the order represents the second major deal with M&S in the past 12 months. Last year, it won a contract to supply all cheesecakes, known as Blueberry Foods, sold by the chain - the order that led to its new 30,000sq ft £15m Leicester factory being built and opened in August 2008.

The company - which employs 4,000 people at seven Leicester-shire factories and is the county’s largest employer - has been hit by falls in demand for other products, but is confident that sales will be up this year.

A spokesman for the Food and Drink Forum, which represents food firms across the East Midlands, said: "This is an excellent example of the need to continually adapt to develop."