Fresh produce is a major weapon in the war between the discounters and the major mults, and the ­damage is plain to see - especially on the veg side. Keen price competition on core veg and salad lines such as lettuce, cucumber, broccoli, leek, six-packs of tomatoes and three-packs of peppers, means value sales have nosedived to the tune of nearly £400m over the past year. The lettuce category has lost 15% of its value, driven by price cuts on iceberg in response to competition from the discounters.

Not all of the losses in fruit and veg are down to the discounters, though. After two challenging years, harvests in 2013/14 were much improved, boosting supplies and allowing prices to reset to more normal ­levels.

Potatoes are a case in point. The category has lost an eye-watering £149m over the past year but average retail prices are still higher than they were two years ago, says Julie MacLeod, senior analyst for strategic insight at the AHDB. Counterintuitively, despite growing price competition from the discounters there are fewer economy potato lines available than in the past. “We’re not yet sure whether that is demand or supply-driven, but many economy potato lines have just disappeared off the shelves,” says MacLeod.

fruit & veg tpt

While all top 10 veg lines were down on last year, further down the list, beetroot sales are soaring as it gains a reputation as a trendy superfood (see Top Launch).

The picture in fruit is looking more promising. With the category somewhat less exposed to the price war than veg (with the exception of key lines such as loose bananas), value has held up better and volume sales are actually up - good news given ongoing ­concerns about consumers not getting their five-a-day. Much improved harvests have helped bring down prices for apples and pears, while value in other categories soared in response to consumer trends. Sales of clementines, for example, have taken off as sales of other citrus - such as mandarins - dropped. “Mandarins appear to be losing popularity every year as they are notoriously difficult to peel, unlike clementines, which are a genuine easy peeler,” says Steve Rudge, head of procurement at Reynolds.

smoky shredded

Top launch: Smoky shredded beetroot by Tesco

Beetroot has had a cracking year, with value sales up 8% year on year to £48.8m, and Tesco is tapping growing consumer interest in the veg with this added-value line, supplied through G’s Fresh. Beetroot is increasingly gaining a reputation as a superfood, says Anthony Gardiner, marketing director at G’s Fresh. “It’s now seen as almost in the same bracket as kale,” he adds. “It’s been getting some great media following and is finding its way into more recipes.”