Genius. That’s the only way to describe our Own-Label Range of the Year (see p39).

Essential Waitrose was not a new range, as such. About 50% of the lines were rebadged. And though the price of one or two also came down with the launch, the fact that, in The Grocer 33 Annual Review, the differential between Asda’s shopping basket and the basket of Waitrose’s equivalent basket of goods increased by £56.19 to an incredible £531.75 (see p4) shows that Essential could hardly be described as cheap.

It was marketing. Pure and simple. Using Heather Gatley, the brilliant illustrator, to design the pared down, pastel-coloured line drawings used on its otherwise plain-white packaging, Essential was about reminding customers that Waitrose doesn’t just sell truffle-scented olive oil, and four ready-to-eat pears for £3.

It also sells staples, like cornflakes, rice, butter, basic fruit and veg, and some of it within a few pence of Sainsbury’s (the second-most expensive retailer in our annual Grocer 33 survey), thus enabling its loyal customers not to feel the need to switch to a more ‘downmarket’ rival.

As every brand owner knows, marketing is about creating a perception over and above cost. An equation otherwise known as value. And one also sees this in the marketing for Stella Artois, another winner at the Grocer Gold Awards (p36).

Stella’s Recyclage de Luxe campaign was brilliant. As well as screaming premium, the ads drew attention away from the ‘Reassuringly Expensive’ slogan for long enough to distract the consumer from both the outdated slogan, but also the dreaded ‘wifebeater’ tag, while Stella was reformulated and Stella 4% acted as a halo. And the stylish return to our screens, this month, of the main brand, was indeed, “a thing of beauty”.

Instead of simply slashing prices, or battening down the hatches, in response to trouble and recession, Waitrose and Stella are case studies in confident, strategic, genius marketing.