Asda Just Essentials AG-13

Candles, electric blankets, toasted sandwich makers. These are some of the hot ticket items shoppers are picking up, in apparent readiness for a benighted winter, as the threat of blackouts adds to the prevailing sense of economic gloom.

Kantar also observed important developing food trends this month, noting how “savvy” shoppers are finding value amid the cost of living crisis. It’s a complex and nuanced picture, with with shoppers not just switching to discounters but switching discounters. Another perhaps counterintuitive move has been smaller pack sizes, which is as much demand as supply led. But nothing signifies the flight to value better than the importance of Just Essentials in Asda’s return to form.

Even in expanded form, the 262-strong range still represents just 1.2% of Asda’s range. But the number of shoppers buying one of these lines has risen from 33% to “nearly two thirds” in the space of one month. Of course, this range is not the only reason for the extra 417,000 shoppers who came through its doors. The extension of the ‘Kids Eat for £1’ initiative to the end of the year; and the imminent launch of an unlimited ‘Soup, rolls and tea for £1’ initiative for the over-60s, shows Asda is thinking creatively in the cost of living crisis. But value own-label sales are having a disproportionate effect on its appeal.

Read more: Asda is back in the game and its Just Essentials range is playing a big part in that

Own-label wonky fruit & veg is also having a disproportionate impact. Alas, wonky is still just 1% of total fruit & veg sales, and the terms of some of these ranges does a disservice to farmers. On the other hand, the number of people switching to less-than-perfect produce keeps rising. With an extra 672,000 shoppers, 4.8 million people are wonky converts. Not to be sniffed at.

The flight to value is also benefiting the far larger standard tier, up 7%, and even premium, up 5%. The net result, with 43% growth for value own-label, is an overall 8.1% gain in own-label. And having comfortably clawed back sales lost to brands in the pandemic, the latest waves of innovation will only add to the record own-label share. It’s a tough time to be a branded supplier, that’s for sure. When you consider inflation is running at a record 13.9%, the disparity is a quite chilling reminder of how ruthlessly shoppers are seeking out best value.