Localchoice milk has to become even more local if it is to hit performance targets, Tesco has told The Grocer.

The retailer admitted it had "work to do" on the regional milk brand after receiving several complaints from the public about its local claims, but said it deserved credit for the concept, which it rolled out earlier this year as part of a £25m investment in dairy farming.

"We appreciate there are areas in Localchoice that we're not satisfied with in terms of how local it can be. But we need another 12 months to fine-tune it," said senior dairy buyer, Alain Guilpain. "Last week, we did more than 450,000 litres of it, but in 12 months time I'd like it to be a one million litre per week brand." He singled out the Heart of England and south-east England lines as particular problems for the local claim.

The former has already been subdivided into East Midlands and West Midlands milk, while the latter will be rechristened Home Counties milk.

Three Scottish regions have recently been added to the 14-strong range, and Guilpain said there was potential to add further new areas, including the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man.

Tesco has also halved the Localchoice premium compared with standard milk to just 2p for a four-pint bottle. "We're getting new buyers back from doorstep milk, but also a lot of people moving across from organic. It suggests we need to do some work on repositioning organic milk."

Guilpain also hinted at plans to extend the Localchoice brand to other products in the dairy aisle - and even to other fresh food categories.

"Localchoice could be a strong umbrella brand," he said. "Cream is already in the development pipeline because it's quite easy to do, but cheese would be much harder."insight

AGE PROFILE of canned fruit consumers












Info: Year ending August 2007. In-home and lunchbox consumption

Canned fruit sales fell 4% year-on-year to £142m

Consumption was down 4% to 554 million meals

Adults aged 45+ are the core consumers

Some 42% of canned fruit is eaten between 5pm-7pm

Health and enjoyment are the core drivers

Health concerns help stem decline

Canned fruit may be a favourite among the over-45s, but even the healthy eating mega-trend has failed to shore up consumption, which has fallen 4% year-on-year. Canned fruit featured in 554 million meals and notched up sales

of £142m.

Nonetheless, those citing health as their reason for eating it grew 8% in number year-on-year. Health and enjoyment are both core motivations, accounting for 35% and 40% respectively. People also said they ate it because they fancied a change, because it was easy to prepare and clear up and because it needed using up.

Adults aged 45 and over account for 67% of consumption. However, consumption among these traditional groups is slowly falling, while only children aged between 6 and 16 and women in the 35 to 44 age bracket are eating more year-on-year. The increase among children is driven by parents' growing concerns over healthy eating, and the drive by the government to improve children's diets.

Canned fruit is consumed most often on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Vicky Mansell