Asda will be stealing customers from Waitrose when it triples its organic range later this year and starts rolling out compostable packaging, its head of corporate social responsibility claimed this week.

Ian Bowles said Asda's organic range would be extended to 1,000 own-label lines in November, and would come in compostable rather than plastic packaging by March.

All fresh produce would be packaged in the starch-based materials by the middle of 2007.

"Waitrose will get a shock when they see ours is equally as good as produce bought in their supermarkets - but for cheaper," said Bowles. "We are determined we will not be beaten on our organic prices."

A spokesman for Waitrose would not comment on the challenge from Asda, but added: "We welcome any move to extend the breadth of organic food and drink on offer to UK consumers."

Bowles insisted that the move to compostable packaging was not in reaction to Sainsbury's launch of the same starch-based packaging earlier this month, which is to replace plastic on 500 product lines (The Grocer, 9 September, p6).

"There's been a lot going on in the past few months in terms of chasing the green pound, but we've been trialling starch for the past 12 months, which is probably just as long as Sainsbury's."

The expansion of organics and roll-out of the new packaging comes off the back of extensive customer focus groups on Asda. "They said, 'we want organic and fair trade, but we do not want to pay a premium'. We have worked hard to get that balance right."

As well as fruit and vegetables, the range will include jams, honey, sauces and ready meals.

It will be promoted through an in-store campaign using leaflets and Asda FM, added Bowles, as research showed that 53% of its shoppers got their information about a supermarket in-store, compared with 35% from TV and 32% from the local press.