There was more than a slight whiff of deja vu this morning as supermarket giant Tesco unveiled its new raft of ‘Farms’ brands.

Just a little reminiscent of the ill-fated discount brands (just a couple survive, while others were still cropping up in 99p Stores until fairly recently), the new stable of ‘Farms’ brands marks an altogether more coherent effort to bolster defences against the discounters and, indeed, mainstream competitors.

The launch is clear recognition that one of the many reasons why British shoppers have been flocking to the discounters has been the improved ranges and keen pricing in produce and protein provided by Aldi and Lidl.

Their incredibly competitive pricing on a select number of produce items each week has been a cornerstone of their marketing and a key traffic driver over the last few years.

Several supermarkets have adopted similar strategies on produce, not least Tesco for whom the ‘Festive Five’ is understood to have underpinned their more robust than expected Christmas showing.

Some have dismissed the ‘Farms’ range as a rehash of discounter brands, but for me this is a much more structured and logical approach.

“The ‘Farms’ brands are a real step in the right direction – one more reason to visit and one less reason to defect”

Bryan Roberts, TCC Global

Produce, meat and poultry are key categories and the new brands – and their point of sale – combine compelling affordability with enough quality assurance to make the products a decent bet.

Undoubtedly, there will be more to come from Tesco this year, but the ‘Farms’ brands are a real step in the right direction – one more reason to visit and one less reason to defect.

Progress

Some cut-price pork chops won’t stem the broader structural shifts that are underway in the market, but they are another sign of tangible progress in the Tesco recovery narrative.

Attendees at Retail Week Live heard all about some of the cultural shifts underway. Today reaffirms that improvements are very much underway in terms of proposition too.

There has already been plenty of impressive work on ranging and adjacencies and word has it that bakery will be coming in for some serious TLC this year too.

“Despite the recent uptick in trade, there are lingering doubts that a transformative silver bullet for the bigger stores is in sight”

Bryan Roberts, TCC Global

Standard private label is currently receiving long overdue attention and the vast majority of my recent store visits suggests that manpower and morale are also where they need to be.

Putting that overall positivity aside though, a few troubling observations remain.

Despite the recent uptick in trade, there are lingering doubts that a transformative silver bullet for the bigger stores is in sight.

The other worry is over marketing. I suspect I’m not alone in having found the seasonal TV ad campaign a little esoteric and borderline irksome.

There are genuine improvements to be found in Tesco. Communicating these in a persuasive way is the next challenge.