The number of lines in Asda’s Just Essentials value range has shrunk by 8%, with some everyday food products among those removed.
The supermarket was responding to a list provided by private label consultancy IPLC of products to have disappeared from the online Just Essentials range since the end of February. They include Chicken Thigh Portions, Mild White Cheddar and Red Leicester cheeses, Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce, Diet Cola and Lemonade and dishwasher tablets.
The shrinking of the range by 24 products is a net reduction, with some lines also added. IPC noted seven new lines to have appeared online in recent months, including Breaded Fish Fillets, Chicken Nuggets and Cooked & Peeled Prawns.
Three lines are due to be added in the coming months, according to Asda.
The Just Essentials launch last year came months after Asda faced criticism from food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe for discontinuing some Smart Price products – the supermarket’s former budget range – leaving only more expensive options.
Asda said the Just Essentials reduction was range rationalisation as it developed a better understanding of what customers wanted from the year-old lineup.
It acknowledged poor availability was also behind some of the delistings from the range, along with customer reviews and duplication.
“We want to make sure we have the right products on our shelves for our customers, which is why we are always monitoring every product in all of our ranges,” said a spokesman.
“We launched Just Essentials over a year ago to make sure our customers could get the essentials they needed at great prices, and since then we’ve changed a small number of products within the lineup for others to ensure the best choice and value for our customers – by removing some lines and adding others.”
IPLC’s Paul Stainton questioned the impact on Asda’s margins of customers trading down to Just Essentials from mid-tier options.
In Asda’s full-year trading update for 2022, owners the Issa brothers said investing heavily in low prices had proved a drag on profits, while stressing they were “the right thing to do”. Sales were up 0.1% year on year.
In September last year, Asda temporarily limited customers to buying three Just Essentials items each, with some experts then also questioning the impact of the range on the retailer’s margins. Asda said at the time it had been caught out by demand for Just Essentials, and wanted to ensure as many customers as possible could access them.
The range launch was credited with helping Asda achieve 4.7% like-for-like sales growth in the third quarter of 2022, its best quarterly performance since the start of 2021.
Just Essentials also picked up own-label range of the year at this year’s Grocer Gold Awards.