Asda Just Essentials AG-3

As the cost of living crisis intensifies – and warnings of £4k energy bills hit the headlines – the mults are upping their focus on value. Their own-label value ranges have traditionally played a crucial role in communicating that message. So on the face of it, it seems an odd time for Tesco to be cutting its value ranges.

Yet The Grocer this week reveals Tesco has cut the size of its value range every year since 2019 (p4). It now includes 316 products, down from 422 two years ago.

It’s particularly odd considering its Farms brands, which lead its value proposition, were deemed a resounding success –prompting copycat lines among rivals.

Tesco’s response sheds some light on the decision. It tells The Grocer its value tier is just “one way we’re helping customers with the cost of their weekly shop” – alongside Aldi Price Match and its Clubcard Prices scheme.

Put simply, everyday low prices are more of a focus for its strategy than a specific budget-friendly range – which makes sense as it takes on the discounters.

Interestingly, this comes in the same week that Asda has come under fire for too overtly flagging up value. The brightly coloured packaging of its newly launched Just Essentials range faced criticism from some shoppers, who claimed it acted as a “poverty marker”.

While the comments made for some provocative headlines, it has proven a storm in a teacup. Asda shoppers were overwhelmingly supportive on social media, pointing out the products represented good quality and value, rather than a source of shame. As Asda put it: “We don’t understand why anyone would feel embarrassed for saving money.”

But it’s on this point that Asda could be in trouble. This week’s Grocer 33 shows the gap between Asda’s prices and those of its rivals is narrowing. Tesco would have got close with Clubcard Prices, and Sainsbury’s is only £4 behind. Asda had the highest level of inflation of the pack.

At this time, this is what shoppers will be paying attention to – not bright packaging or how many products are value-tier.