Supermarkets are "kidding" consumers into believing their premium products are the best food they can buy, according to a leading food industry figure.
Bob Farrand, national director of the Guild of Fine Food, said the multiples' top-of-the-range own-label lines, such as Tesco Finest, Asda Extra Special and Sainsbury's Taste the Difference, were nothing more than "average foods in fancy packaging".
"Consumers believe the hype," said Farrand. "In the advertising, it's 'finest this' and 'finest that' and shoppers truly think the finest food is available from Tesco. They should stop trying to kid consumers."
Mass-produced ready meals manufactured to meet a price point could never compete on quality with handmade farm shop ready meals, he claimed.
Farrand, who admitted to shopping in Waitrose "on the odd occasion", singled Tesco out for particularly harsh treatment. Its buyers and NPD teams had little or no appreciation of good food, he claimed. "Our farmers, regional food businesses and independents are all at risk because of Tesco. "Pretty soon, the only farms and food producers we'll have left will be those prepared to sacrifice quality for mass production and who are willing to supply Tesco."
A Tesco spokesman said: "Farrand is entitled to his opinion but Tesco Finest lines are highly popular and growing more rapidly than the rest of the market."