Heston at Waitrose

Waitrose has ended its long-running and hugely successful partnership with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, and will instead turn to its own in-house chefs to deliver product innovation.

The retailer is taking its “product development in a new direction”, the partnership said, confirming a report by the Daily Mail on Monday. The statement added the partnership has its “own team” of product development chefs and has “some exciting plans in store for the rest of the year”.

“We’ve enjoyed what has been one of the most enduring relationships of its kind and we’re looking forward to the next chapter and unveiling some really exciting plans in the months to come,” said Natalie Mitchell, Waitrose director of own brand.

“So we would like to thank Heston Blumenthal and his team for what has been a tremendously creative partnership and wish them all the best in the future,” Mitchell added.

It marks the end of what is a 12-year partnership between the high-end grocer and one of the UK’s best-known chefs. The exclusive range, which was stocked as ‘Heston from Waitrose’, rose to nearly 50 SKUs at its peak.

The final product of the collaboration is a Chocolate Dabbit, to feature in Waitrose’s upcoming Easter range. The range will feature a golden apple and ‘Eggstraordinary Eggs’ previously developed by the chef.

Heston from Waitrose Hidden Orange Christmas pudding

Heston from Waitrose Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding

Over the past few years, Waitrose has been expanding its team of in-house product developers and development chefs. The team, which has been led by executive chef Martyn Lee since February 2020, has been increasingly central to the development of Waitrose’s own-brand offering, including The Grocer Gold winning Levantine Table range.

The team also played a critical role in relaunching Waitrose Cooks Ingredients’ range of spices and pastes in 2022, as well as the 2019 revamp of its luxury range No 1. The own label now has 435 individual lines.

Blumenthal is not the only long-term partner the grocer has cut ties with of late.

Last month, John Lewis Partnership kicked off a review to find a new creative agency to lead its marketing efforts, after ending its contract with Adam&EveDDB.

The agency, which had held the John Lewis account for 14 years and the Waitrose account since 2015, ruled itself out of the process.

The changes come at a time when Waitrose has been battling to combat declining sales amid a cost of living crisis that is squeezing customer budgets. Like-for-like sales fell 0.6% in the 12 weeks to 22 January 2023 compared to the same period last year, according to Kantar data.

In what was seen as a significant change of strategy for the retailer, Waitrose announced earlier this month it is investing £100m in slashing prices across two to three tranches of price cuts in 2023. The majority of the cuts so far are focused on its own-brand Essentials range.