Supermarkets 'devalue' premium products, says Imperial College professor David Hughes

David Hughes, emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College London, has criticised Sainsbury's for "de-valuing" premium range produce during the recession.

He told growers at last month's Carrot & Onion conference that UK retailers' response to harsh economic times has been to encourage shoppers to opt for value, basic or discount lines. But he warned that this brings concerns about whether the premium supermarket brands developed so effectively through the economic good times will recover their ground.

The situation is not helped by the fact that shoppers have been told by Sainsbury's that "our basics brand vegetables are every bit as good as our premium offer, just different sizes and shapes".

Hughes said: "They have built up this demand for premium products and then said, actually, they are pretty much the same. We need to be putting more value into our products, not reducing them to raw bone commodities. That's not good for anybody here."

Hughes, who also sits on the KG Growers board, added that premium lines have suffered during the recession but are now making some sort of recovery. "Premium is back on the agenda and I am delighted to see that," he concluded.


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