We've read a lot about the competition between Lidl and Aldi but as far as advertising is concerned, it's a three-way fight in the smaller retailer sector. The Co-operative Group's investment in advertising this year isn't far behind that of its German competitors.

In the year to date, the society has spent almost £6.5m and in the four weeks ending 5 October it spent 49% more on advertising compared with the same period last year, only being outspent by Aldi.

By comparison, the other smaller retailers, including Netto, have remained distinctly quiet at a time when all the major multiples are increasing their spend (The Grocer, 18 October, p20).

So what has The Co-operative Group been spending its money on? Well, as with so many other retailers, it has focused on pushing a value message. However, it has also been flagging up the 'Britishness' of its offer.

Its TV campaign, which broke on 15 September, promoted half-price produce including steak and fresh fruit and vegetables. This complemented its ongoing press campaign showing similar deals under the 'Good with Food' slogan.

Perhaps more interesting, though, is the activity that started in October. The Co-operative Group dusted off a TV ad it first aired in autumn 2007 for a two-week burst between 6 and 19 October, during which it spent about £750,000 targeting housewives.

The creative is a patriotic affair with flags from the home nations telling us how its Welsh lamb is from Wales, its English pork is from England and its Aberdeen Angus beef is from Scotland.

This campaign followed the society's sponsorship of the Mirror's Pride of Britain Awards broadcast on ITV1 on 1 October. The awards, which "honoured the most remarkable people of the year - our ­nation's unsung heroes", were watched by 5.7 million people, ­reinforcing the adverts' British-is-best message.

It remains to be seen whether The Co-operative Group's next burst of advertising will continue with this home-grown message in an effort to differentiate it from Aldi and Lidl or whether it will switch completely to a value-­focused message in an effort to ­attract crunch-hit shoppers.