23 Dec Insider View: December 2016
With Christmas approaching fast, the race is on for retailers to make the most of the festive mood. The signs have been good in the approach, with strong sales of premium own brands reported, a 13% jump in sales in the 12 weeks to December. Top-tier private label sales have been strong right across the board, from Aldi’s Specially Selected to Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference as consumers look to treat themselves while keeping an eye on their purse strings. Asda’s Extra Special range is up 15%, beaten only by Morrison’s The Best up a huge 35% in the past 12 weeks. Iceland has also reported strong end of year figures, boosted no doubt by their work in promoting the quality and range of their Luxury tier. The confidence in this top tier has been growing as all retailers have invested heavily on improving their offer. The number of Premium Own Label products tested though Fast Foodfax has gone up by 40% this year reflecting the level of innovation at the premium end of the market. Retailers have recognised the vital role this tier plays in overall perceptions of their store and are keen to tap into the growing desire for an affordable treat; something a bit different beyond low prices. Many of the most successful premium lines use top quality ingredients or provide a twist on a tried and tested formula. For example, just this month we have seen a win for Iceland’s Luxury Mince Pies which offered just the right ratio of top quality mincemeat to buttery pastry, while Asda’s Soufflés were made ‘extra special’ by using Wyke Farms Cheddar and M&S’s Sweet & Salty Nut Clusters were strongly flavoured and bang on trend. Some of the most innovative premium tier entries have not been as high scorers but are ones that can enhance the reputation of the brand by adding value and variety to the range. Asda’s Extra Special: Alishan Oolong Green Tea is a classic showcase of niche, top tier innovation. Rather less successful was the intriguingly named Taste the Difference Slow Cooked Steak & Chianti Conchiglioni Pasta which did not quite match its elaborate product description.
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The Top rating products this month:
- This month’s Showcase Product 161221: Iceland Pizza Express Artisana Dessert Classics: Tiramisu Gelato, (Rating 44/50 Review 161129), another potential winning tie-in for Iceland following the success of its Slimming World brand.
- And it’s a hit for another indulgent treat, this time from McCain: Triple Cooked Chips with Cornish Sea Salt, 43, Review 161217.
But many new products tested this month are already thinking ahead to a more abstemious January:
- M&S tempts consumers with its Guilt Free Snacking Belgian Chocolate Mini Corn & Rice Cakes, 38, which come in handy 25g portions. Review 161208.
While High Protein products have been a common feature this month:
- Asda’s High Protein/ Low Fat: Salmon Linguine was the most successful of the bunch, particularly in the North, with health a key purchase driver, Review 161205.
- While Fuel High Protein Quark with Fruit: Mango & Passionfruit from the Fuel Station was also an attractive proposition for those looking for a filling breakfast ‘on the go’. Review 161213.
- But Premier’s High Protein Batchelor’s Smokey Spanish Bean Casserole, Review 161231 was less relevant from the start, not helped by the packaging which one tester claimed: “looks like a tin of Baked Beans from the 1970’s”.
 Kantar Worldfoods, Dec 2016