Asda axes Smart Price range in product shake-up launching legal clash with Waitrose

By Isabella Boneham
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 11:38 am
A shopper wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, chooses items off the shelves of an Asda supermarket in London on December 14, 2020. - With just over two weeks to go until Britain leaves the EU single market, preparations have been stepped up as fears grow about the impact of customs checks and congested ports. Concern is rising over the supply of perishable fresh fruit and vegetables, much of which is imported from EU countries. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
A shopper wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, chooses items off the shelves of an Asda supermarket in London on December 14, 2020. - With just over two weeks to go until Britain leaves the EU single market, preparations have been stepped up as fears grow about the impact of customs checks and congested ports. Concern is rising over the supply of perishable fresh fruit and vegetables, much of which is imported from EU countries. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Asda is scrapping its Smart Price range replacing it with the firm’s own Just Essentials products.

This move follows the grocer facing a slow growth due to customers returning to pre-pandemic habits.

Asda said it has designed the new range with consideration for customer concerns over the cost of living crisis.

However, its new £45m range has put it in legal contention with Waitrose as the retailer claims Asda has used a similar name to its own established discount brand - Essential Waitrose.

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    What is Asda’s new range?

    Just Essentials by Asda products will include household essentials such as toilet roll and shampoo as well as fresh meat, fish and poultry, frozen items and cupboard staples such as tinned tomatoes.

    The new budget range will comprise 300 products, a 50% increase on the current Smart Price range.

    Products will initially arrive in stores from May and be rolled out to replace Smart Price over the summer.

    The retailer said the full range would be available in all its 581 stores and online - eventually replacing its existing Smart Price budget range.

    Why is the Smart Price range being axed?

    The move follows the recent announcement from the Office for National Statistics that inflation jumped to a 30-year-high of 6.2% in February, with food inflation at 5.3%.

    Mohsin Issa, co-owner of Asda, said: “We understand that customers are increasingly worried about the cost of living and want help to keep their grocery bills in check, whilst still being able to buy healthy and nutritious food for their families.

    “Our new Just Essentials range has been specifically designed with this in mind, combing our lowest prices with a much larger and more diverse range of great value products to meet all household needs.”

    The shake-up also follows Asda’s revelation of its figures.

    The retailer highlighted that like-for-like sales declined by 2.9% in the three months to December compared with the same period a year earlier, as customers returned to pubs and restaurants.

    Online sales also declined by 5% in 2021 against the previous year.

    However, Asda said operating profits soared over the year, rising by 42% to £693.1 million due to a reduction in Covid-related costs.

    Mr Issa added: “When we bought Asda we were clear that we wanted to grow this great business and our ambition is for Asda to regain its position as the UK’s second-largest grocery retailer.

    “We are pleased with the progress made in the six months since we officially took over the business and are confident we can achieve this long-term ambition by providing customers with exceptional value wherever and however they choose to shop with us.”

    What is the legal dispute with Waitrose?

    Waitrose said it had sent a legal letter to its bigger rival over its new brand name Just Essentials by Asda on Monday (28 March).

    It claims it mirrors its own budget range name Essential Waitrose - which the brand has used for around 13 years.

    A spokesperson for Waitrose said: “We were surprised to hear that Asda is launching an essentials range as the Essential Waitrose brand has been in use since 2009 and has built up a strong reputation for value, quality and higher welfare standards in that time.

    “As we’ve also protected the name as a trade mark, we have raised this with Asda and are awaiting a response.”

    However, an Asda spokesperson responded to the claims stating that “the word ‘essentials’ is a generic and commonly used term by retailers to describe their value product ranges.”