Tesco CEO Dave Lewis

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis

Of the many tough decisions the judges had to make in deciding the 27 winners, the final one of the night “was probably the toughest”, said Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer.

As well as high-flying discounters Aldi and Lidl, Tesco, Morrisons and Iceland had all implemented impressive turnarounds in the past year.

“A compelling case could be made for every supermarket on the shortlist. It was an agonising decision,” he explained.

After lengthy debate it was Tesco’s turnaround that prevailed, however. “It has been a turnaround of incredible complexity, addressing huge issues, and played out against the backdrop of a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

And yet it has been convincingly re-engineered from the ground up, its store standards have vastly improved despite slashing costs, and it has made incredible strides to restore its battered reputation,” he added.

Slowly, meticulously, intelligently, Tesco has improved its competitiveness and reduced its complexity (while increasing innovation) through a so-called Project Reset programme, supported by the launch of its Farms brands, a controversial rebranding of its value range that also plugged gaps in its offer. It’s also stuck to its guns with its Brand Match price scheme, while others lost their nerve.

These measures helped Tesco achieve the first UK like-for-like sales growth and the first market share growth since 2011.

Even more remarkable has been the reset in its supplier relations. For years Tesco was feared but not respected and its abuse of power led to criminal charges as well as a fine from the Grocery Adjudicator. As recently as two years ago it was still bottom of the Advantage Supplier Survey. But a new approach saw it come top last October.

Trust in the Tesco brand is also at a four-year high among consumers. Indeed its efforts to source more responsibly from suppliers helped Tesco win Britain’s Favourite Supermarket for the third year running, with shoppers rating Tesco the best when it comes to food provenance, overtaking Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, along with six of the other 10 criteria.

Innovative use of technology has also helped improve its reputation, including its unique Payqwiq payment app for consumers - to ‘serve Britain’s Shoppers a little better every day’, as it puts it.

Tesco has also developed an innovative phone app - in conjunction with FoodCloud, a small social enterprise - for use by store staff, and set up a new national food waste reduction scheme now in 900 stores (with plans to roll it out to a further 1,800 convenience stores). Tesco won an award for that too.

Such measures have no doubt helped to improve staff morale as well. More than 90% say they understand and are motivated by Tesco’s purpose and 78% recommend Tesco as a great place to work. Given that Tesco has slashed thousands of jobs through restructuring, and scrapped the final salary pension scheme, these numbers are remarkable.

Added Leyland: “Tesco will be the first to say there is more work to be done, but to get Tesco firing again on so many fronts has taken a Herculean effort from everyone involved at the supermarket, from the boardroom to the shop floor. This award is thoroughly well deserved.”