Why values are now important in budget food ranges too

Budget food lines used to be all about the price with very little thought given to quality, either of the product or the packaging, but all that has changed with the horse meat scandal and the rise of the discounters.

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This week marks the one year anniversary since horse DNA was found in meat products and many would be forgiven for thinking that the food and grocery industries have returned to business as normal. The scandal seems to have had a limited impact on consumer buying habits and the reputations of those brands caught up in it have all but recovered.

Yet there has been a sea change in how brands market their food that is best exemplified by Sainsbury’s latest ad campaign.

Consumers are used to supermarkets trying to tell us “stories” about their expensive product ranges. Tesco told Marketing Week at the relaunch of its Finest range last year that it wanted to “showcase the stories, passion and people behind the range”.

Not so for budget ranges. We’re shown how much they cost and that is meant to be the selling point. No further details needed.

Sainsbury’s is looking to change that. Ads for its new Basics range, which was also revamped last year, introduce values to the marketing message for its budget food range.

These are not just eggs. These are Sainsbury’s eggs from uncaged hens. These are better quality and come from a supermarket with better values than its rivals.

This is just the latest move by Sainsbury’s in its unrelenting battle with Tesco over the their price matching schemes. Tesco thinks its own brand goods are comparable to Sainsbury’s and so includes them in its “Price Match” scheme.

Sainsbury’s disagrees and is looking to hammer home its point at any available moment no matter that consumers, I suspect, have stopped listening. What started with eggs will escalate in the coming weeks to highlight the difference in meat and fish products.

Yet it’s possible that attacking Tesco isn’t the way to go about it. Sainsbury’s “Live well for less” campaign is resonating with customers and it was doing so long before it embarked on this battle with Tesco.

Sainsbury’s is right to highlight values in its budget own-brand label. Sales of cheaper food lines such as frozen burgers and lasagne ready meals still haven’t recovered to pre-horse meat levels.

Budget food needs an image overhaul and people with less to spend on groceries don’t want to feel guilty every time they plump for the cheaper option. It’s a strategy that we will see other grocers emulate as competition from the discounters continues to rise.

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