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Asda’s new Just Essentials range has hit shelves, with the supermarket claiming it will help families struggling with the squeeze on household budgets.

More than 60 items, including meat products, ready meals and fruit & veg, will be in store and online by the end of this week, and are among 293 products which will eventually replace Asda’s Smart Price range, as exclusively revealed by The Grocer in March.

The supermarket said the range, which is 50% wider than its predecessor, would ensure families could access nutritious food no matter their budgets.

More than 130 products will be available by the end of June, rising to 267 lines by 13 August. The remaining 26 products will land in stores by the end of the year.

The new range will span all key categories including fresh meat, fish and poultry, bakery, frozen and all cupboard staples.

New lines that weren’t present under Smart Price include fishcakes, salmon portions and braising steak.

It also includes more than 20 household and toiletry products including washing-up liquid, toilet roll, laundry powder, shampoo and conditioner.

“Nine out of 10 of our customers have told us they are concerned about the cost of living crisis, with 44% of them saying they’re actively looking for ways to make their grocery budget go further,” said Asda VP brand and propositions Sam Dickson.

“We’ve developed Just Essentials by Asda to offer our customers the same value they know and love from our Smart Price range, but across a much larger and more diverse range of products, and with a bold brand that is hard to miss. Our mission is to meet all household needs through Just Essentials, and ensure families can enjoy nutritious food, no matter their budget.”

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The launch comes after Asda last week warned shoppers faced “stark challenges” ahead, after reporting a like-for-like sales decline of more than 9% during the first quarter of the financial year.

The supermarket blamed the fall on the exceptional sales of Q1 last year, which coincided with the UK’s third national lockdown and saw a boom in supermarket sales.

However, Paul Stainton, partner at IPLC UK, said Asda would have to go further to become competitive with the discounters and Tesco, saying that key value tier products were still regularly higher priced than those at Aldi.

Asda’s Just Essentials Fresh Beef Mince 20% fat 500g, new to its value tier at £1.69, is the same price as Aldi’s Ashfield 25% fat mince at £1.69, and 20p cheaper than Aldi’s and Tesco’s 20% fat version.

Fresh Lean Pork Mince, less than 5% fat, also new to Asda’s value tier, is the same price as Aldi and cheaper than Tesco’s budget range.

However, Asda is more expensive than Aldi on a raft of products including beef steak, whole chicken, potatoes, cheese and pizzas.

Stainton said: “Asda is more expensive than the likes of Aldi in many cases despite this being its value tier offering.

“In my opinion, if Asda is truly wanting to get back to its true ‘Asda price’ roots, and offer customers market-leading prices, it simply must be selling the Just Essentials range at the same prices as Aldi’s Everyday Essentials, Lidl’s Simply and the other value/discounter brand price points. It will be expensive to do this, but does it really have an option?”

Amira Freyer-Elgendy, consumer analyst at GlobalData, said Asda was the most vulnerable of the traditional supermarkets for customers deserting to discount retailers, because of its younger and less affluent core demographic.

She said: “Delivering a clear message on value and quality will be crucial as it’s not all about price – as Aldi and Lidl have proven via their product quality accolades.”

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