Auntie Anne’s has opened five new stores in the past two months and is looking to continue its expansion in the UK next year.

The international pretzel food-to-go chain now has 18 stores nationwide, with the latest opening in Gateshead, Reading, Cardiff, Basingstoke and Guildford during October and November.

Robert Burton, Auntie Anne’s managing director and owner of the Master Franchise in the UK & Ireland, said: “Despite the climate of austerity in the UK, demand for our pretzels remains strong and we see no reason to divert from our ambitious expansion plans. We have some equally ambitious franchisees who are doing a fantastic job creating local jobs, some of which are now multiple franchise owners.

“We believe Auntie Anne’s makes the best hand-rolled soft pretzels in the world and this shows in our strong business performance, so 2012 will be a very exciting year for us.”

The company’s stores operate in many formats, including kiosks and small shops in shopping centres, as well as outlets in airports and major transportation hubs that it will be looking to target in the New Year.

Auntie Anne’s has more than 1,200 stores worldwide in the USA, China, Thailand, Philippines and the Middle East, which make and bake fresh sweet and savoury pretzels. Its worldwide system turnover was around £228m ($356m) in 2010.