Mary Carmichael
Asda is stepping up the battle for dominance in the premium own label market by almost doubling the size of its Extra Special range.
The expanded range, which covers the spectrum of meal occasions, will include 250 products by the end of the year. Asda believes the range can ultimately grow to 500 lines (The Grocer, July 6, p5).
However, it will still lag well behind Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, which boasts 700 products, and market leader Tesco's 1,200-strong, £600m Finest range which continues to grow in size by more than 30% year-on-year. However, Asda's determination to raise its game marks a remarkable trend in the UK grocery industry where own label now accounts for more than half of all sales in a growing number of categories.
Highlights among 112 newcomers will include luxury desserts such as Chocolate Truffle Cake, Cappuccino and Walnut Gâ´¥au, Belgian Chocolate and Stem Ginger Sponges, and French Tartes.
There is traditional Christmas fare as well as more contemporary seasonal produce, including Prune, Pecan and Almond, Fruit-topped and Nut Cluster cakes, and Layered Christmas Pudding. International offerings include a Stollen Loaf.
Toasted Onion and Three Cheese variants join the bread selection, while Pork and Haggis and Red Thai and Lemongrass Sausages are new to the prepared meat category.
Meal solutions now include exotic offerings such as Guinea Fowl and Barbary Duck.
Asda says the range aims for deluxe quality, innovation and taste while maintaining its signature value-for-money ethos.
Company chef Neil Nugent said: "We asked suppliers to step away from the production line to think how food can realistically have the eye and hand of a trained chef every step of the way."