Winner: M&S Food

Of all the unlikely stories from the cost of living crisis, few match the success of M&S Food.

Against the backdrop of soaring price inflation, this premium grocery retailer is achieving miracles. It’s done so by leaning further into value perceptions via a further £100m investment in four strategic initiatives: Remarksable Value range, a Price Lock on customer favourites, rotating Fresh Market Specials and reinvigorating the Dine In offering.

And it’s reinforcing that value message with TikTok videos, empowering store staff to create and promote them via its pioneering ‘stores social’ which reaches over 3m customers a week. Incredibly, many have gone viral, with two of its songs almost reaching No1 in the Christmas charts.

This modern approach to marketing has been particularly effective at bringing younger Gen Z shoppers to its stores.

And when they get there, more and more are greeted by exciting store conversions – combining the mind of a supermarket in terms of efficiency, but with the theatre, freshness and fun of a fresh market – that are delivering such incremental sales that it’s recently accelerated the store programme, with 104 further foodhalls now planned by 2028.

Of course, M&S is synonymous with innovation, and it’s not disappointed, launching over 1,000 new products, including new cereal and homecare ranges, as well as Magic Coffee, inspired by the Melbourne coffee scene, which is now available in 330 cafes.

New iterations of the M&S Dine In offer brought consistency as well as value to the fore, with a Family Dine In, a Steak Night and a Pizza night in addition to a rotating global menu.

Christmas and Easter selections were “outstanding”, and “of another level of specialness,” according to the judges.

And crucially it’s also been tackling availability, with a ‘Never Sell Out’ policy introduced on core Remarksable Value products, while the acquisition of fresh food supply partner Gist represented a particular milestone in its journey. The move is expected not only to deliver £50m in cost savings, but it will help M&S to create a more efficient and effective food supply chain as legacy systems are updated and further automation added.

And M&S is bringing suppliers on the journey too, ranking first in the recent Grocery Code Adjudicator ranking.

The results of all this hard work are clear to see. M&S beat City profit expectations and upgrades for 2024 in its recent results. And while some of its extra sales are down to store expansion, the vast majority of sales growth is organic, according to NielsenIQ.

M&S also achieved its highest value perception differential to the market for five years (YouGov), with value lines now crucial components of shopping baskets.

“Changing consumer perceptions of your brand is one of the toughest things you can ever do,” said the judges. And to do that in this market is even more, well, remarksable.


Golds sponsors final

M&S Food wins Grocer of the Year for the first time in its history