Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda are gearing up for a battle in premium own label this year as they overhaul upmarket lines in a bid to take a bigger slice of the lucrative £4.5bn market.
Sainsbury is concerned that its 850-strong Taste the Difference range has gone too far with unusual combinations and flavours, putting off some shoppers. It intends to refocus the sub-brand on traditional dishes, such as cottage pie and the best meat cuts, which appeal to a broader range of people.
The relaunch will be promoted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who was this week re-signed as the face of Sainsbury for another year in a deal reported to be worth £1m.
Meanwhile, Tesco is also revamping its Finest range, which is now worth more than £1bn. The 1,200-line range, which was launched in 1998, now only uses the same store cupboard ingredients that are typically used in kitchens. New products coming into the range include more modern dishes, such as lamb in apricot and cardamom masala, as well as traditional ideas, such as Mediterranean cod fishcakes.
It was unclear whether Tesco's range review would include new packaging, which has not changed since it was first launched eight years ago.
In addition, Asda is looking at its Extra Special range, with a view to extending the sub-brand and redesigning its packaging. "It's a huge growth brand for us," said a spokeswoman.
The premium private label sector is now worth £4.55bn, according to the latest research from IGD, which anticipates more growth in the sector as a result of the UK's ageing population, rising affluence, concerns over food safety and health, and a greater interest in food in general.