Premium own label provides choice

Supermarket own-labels have been in the headlines again this week, but while it’s the value ranges that have been attracting attention since the onset of the recession as consumers seek cheaper alternatives, this time, premium ranges have been in the spotlight.

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It was reported this weekend that sales of premium own-label ranges have bucked the trend of declining sales with a rise of 4% in the three months to June as consumers relax purse strings a little.

Supermarket premium ranges got a tongue-lashing from Bob Farrand, chairman of the Guild of Fine Foods, who hit out at the self made claims of quality from supermarket brands such as Tesco Finest and Asda’s Extra Special.

His criticisms lie in the way these ranges are marketed as fine foods, but are ultimately designed with a price point in mind and as such are undermining the quality food industry in Britain.

Farrand is happy to admit that there is high quality produce coming from supermarkets. Some of which, such as Sainsbury’s Creamy Gorgonzola, have achieved the highest accolade of three-gold stars at the Great Taste Awards, an annual, specialist food award hosted by the Guild of Fine Food.

But his concern is that supermarkets are giving consumers the impression that a premium own brand is as good as food can get.

The fear is that the supermarkets are diluting perceptions of quality food among British consumers, but I don’t believe this is the case. If sales of these top-end ranges continue to rise, surely it is a trend that will knock on to quality independent ranges as consumers feel more confident about paying out more money for more premium products.

I think it’s unfair to pan supermarket premium ranges, because they deliver what they promise. Tesco’s Finest range is the finest it has to offer.

Far from undermining quality food products, it’s my view that what these top-tier own brands do is bridge the gap between everyday food and upmarket artisan products. What this results in, is choice.

There is now more choice than ever before in the grocery sector, which can only be a good thing for consumers. It doesn’t have to be a choice between branded or non-branded as there is a huge spectrum of quality and price on offer. It means shoppers can choose when to scale back, or when to splash out, and everything in between.

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