One of the year's hottest topics was GM foods, thanks in part to an exclusive interview given to The Grocer by the Princess Royal in which she claimed it was an "over-simplification" to say all farming should be organic.
2001... The Department of Trade and Industry's new code of trading practice for the big four multiples received a lukewarm response from retailers. Iceland founder Malcolm Walker bounced back from his ignominious dismissal by launching his new venture Cooltrader. The UK's first online-only grocery service Ocado launched, while the The Co-operative Group was formed when Co-operative Wholesale Society joined forces with Co-operative Retail Services.
The biggest shock on the supplier side came in the autumn when arch-rivals New Zealand Milk and Arla Foods teamed up to take on Unilever with the combined strength of their Lurpak and Anchor brands.
2002... Tesco and Sainsbury's led the way in introducing factory-gate pricing to drive down supply chain costs. Retailers also started using online auctions in earnest. The year was generally one of consolidation. Tesco bought the convenience chain T&S while The Co-operative Group acquired the struggling c-store chain Alldays. Interbrew sold Carling to Coors and Irish chain Musgrave bought convenience retailer Budgens.
The year mercifully heralded the end of foot and mouth restrictions, which had blighted the UK beef industry since early 2001. Food price deflation was also a live issue as markets hit 10-year lows.
2003... The landscape of British food retailing shifted after Morrisons beat off competition from Sainsbury's and Asda to buy Safeway for £3bn, making it the undisputed number four player. Sainsbury's malaise continued as Asda swept past it to clinch the second spot in the grocery league table. One of the biggest deals of the year was Scandinavian giant Arla's £155m takeover of the UK's Express Dairies.
The nation's health was high on the agenda as the £10bn tobacco industry was forced to abandon consumer ads, while the FSA mooted the idea of banning advertising junk foods to kids.
2004... Arch rivals Philip Green and Stuart Rose were involved in a stand-off over the former's bid to buy M&S, which culminated in Rose resisting Green's overtures and beginning a root-and-branch review of the M&S business. M&S's Justin King was parachuted in to turn around Sainsbury's fortunes, Somerfield ditched the Kwik Save brand in Scotland, while there was a flurry of activity in convenience retailing, with CJ Lang buying AJ Gillespie and Sainsbury's swooping on Bell's. Birds Eye ditched its gull logo and Tesco pulled bottled water brand Dasani off the shelves.
Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson hinted the government would foist a traffic-light system for nutritional labelling on the industry and the final audit of the supermarket code of practice was passed to the OFT.
2005... The Sudan I cancer food dye scare gripped the nation from February onwards. About 600 product lines had to be withdrawn from shelves after contaminated chilli powder in Worcester Sauce supplied by Premier Foods found its way into the food chain. Tesco forged further ahead of its supermarket rivals. Within the space of a week it broke through the 30% market share barrier and became the first retailer to post profits of more than £2bn. An initial offer from Icelandic retailer Baugur for Somerfield was rebuffed, while on 24 November 24-hour drinking came into force.
The deal of the year saw the second and third-biggest drinks companies in the world French giant Pernod Ricard and the British Allied Domecq join forces.
2006... OFT chief executive John Fingleton confirmed that the grocery retail sector would be referred to the Competition Commission for investigation. Premier Foods was on the acquisition trail. Not content with snapping up the Quorn business and the UK-arm of US-based Campbell Soup Company, in December it put in a £1.2bn offer for RHM, a deal that, when completed in 2007, created a company worth £2.7bn in sales.
A rift over food labelling that had been building since February deepened in June after five manufacturing giants, including Nestlé and Danone, debuted on-pack GDAs. McCain broke ranks with other suppliers by displaying traffic lights on the front of its packs.
2007... Booker's takeover of online wholesaler Blueheath stunned the City and the industry. Mars incurred the wrath of vegetarians after The Grocer revealed it had reformulated its confectionery products to contain rennet. Waitrose chief executive Steven Esom swapped one upmarket retailer for another, becoming head of food at M&S. Bird flu was discovered at Bernard Matthews' Holton site in Suffolk, sparking a major food scare. Walkers became the first brand to carry a carbon label and the smoking ban in England and Wales came into force.
In the same week Ofcom's controversial ban on advertising junk food to children kicked in, The Grocer launched its Weigh It Up! campaign to expose the absurdities of the Nutrient Profiling Model.
2008... The Co-Operative Group became a major force in British retailing once again after buying Somerfield for £1.56m. M&S began trialling branded products for the first time, while Tesco bought out RBS's 50% stake in its retail services joint venture. The industry waved goodbye to Sir Ken Morrison, who stepped down as Morrisons' chairman after 56 years at the helm. Sainsbury's declared its turnaround under Justin King complete after hitting three-year sales targets.
The recession played into the hands of the discounters. Aldi's 24% sales growth concerned Tesco so much that it launched its own Discounter range of tertiary brands.
2009... Despite recession, grocery sales continued to grow, aided by continuing food price inflation and a temporary VAT cut to 15%. Of the big four, Morrisons enjoyed the best like-for-like sales growth, so the departure of CEO Marc Bolland to Marks & Spencer just before Christmas will be a blow.
In September, Tesco relaunched its Clubcard, doubling the number of points, in an attempt to reinvigorate an uncharacteristically lacklustre 2009 performance, with limited impact. Conversely, the launch of the Waitrose Essential range worked wonders, helping it to regain lost share from 2008. It also acquired exclusive rights to Prince Charles' Duchy Originals brand.
Review of the Year 2009 - 12 December 2009