Nicholas Carroll
Nicholas Carroll, Category Director - Retail Insights, has a particular flare for the grocery industry but analyses and writes in-depth reports on a range of UK and European retail markets.

It has taken 16 years, but Asda has relaunched its Farm Stores value brand, last seen on the shelves in 2001. The range was replaced by the own-label range Smart Price in 2001, which will now, in turn, be phased out in 2018. The Farm Stores brand covers the whole range of fresh and chilled categories, from fruit and veg to meat. It features simple but distinctive branding of a farmhouse, which gives a higher image of quality than the previous Smart Price branding.

Whilst this is a reintroduced line, Asda will certainly have had one eye on the success Tesco has achieved with its own Farm Brand. The introduction of the new range in 2016, which required a £300m investment, was credited as a major driver of Tesco’s better performance in 2016 with Farm Brand products featuring in 64% of consumers baskets over the past year.

Importance of own-brand

Own-brands are critical to the success of the major grocers, which is why all of the big four have launched new – or indeed old – own-brand ranges in the past year. As highlighted in Mintel’s Supermarkets UK 2016 report, half of grocery shoppers think the main difference between supermarket retailers are their own-brand offerings.

For Asda in particular there is a need to shake things up. The past 18 months have been difficult for the business, with a new management team put in place that is tasked with trying to right the ship. A relaunched entry level own-brand focused on quality looks like a good place to start.

Mintel research also shows that over a third of Asda shoppers want improved quality in own-brands, but quality and range of fresh foods are also singled out as key areas for improvement. This indicates that the relaunched Farm Stores brand, with its focus on fresh, should be a welcome change for Asda’s core shoppers.

The confusion surrounding ‘fake farms’

The issue with ranges such as Farm Stores is that there is a level of ambiguity about where and how products are sourced and the concept of ‘fake farm’ brands have been questioned in the national media as they’ve been adopted by the supermarkets. From a retailer’s perspective, it is clear why they would want to promote a ‘farm’ brand, as UK-sourced products have always been popular amongst UK shoppers and look to become increasingly so in the wake of Brexit. Indeed, there is awareness about the increasingly important role domestic produce is set to play within the industry, with almost three quarters of Brits agreeing that more locally sourced products from the UK should be available in supermarkets.

However, the success of Tesco’s Farm Brand indicates that consumers have not been put off by any confusion. However, retailers should be looking to promote UK-sourced products where possible, irrespective as to whether the product is offered under a ‘real’ or ‘fake’ farm brand.

Senior Retail Analyst at Mintel, Nick Carroll currently writes a range of UK & European retail reports and is regularly called upon to comment on breaking retail stories in the UK’s leading media. Prior to joining Mintel Nick worked for over eight years in retail for both Jones Bootmaker and Barratts.