The appointment of Dave Lewis as chief executive of Tesco prompted discussion about what the established grocers might learn from FMCG businesses as they square up against the discounters.

The appointment of Dave Lewis as chief executive of Tesco prompted discussion about what the established grocers might learn from FMCG businesses as they square up against the discounters.

Lewis brings impressive expertise of brand building and customer insight from Unilever. An update last week from one of its peers, Procter & Gamble, also provides food for thought.

P&G, owner of famous names ranging from Pampers to Gillette, is to embark on a massive brand cull. About half of its brands – 90 or so – will be disposed of.

The reason? Shoppers are overwhelmed by choice and there are far more options available than they desire.

P&G boss AG Lafley told analysts: “There is a lot of evidence in a number of our categories that the shopper and the consumer really don’t want more assortment and more choice. Consumers want to keep their life simple and convenient.”

It’s a view at odds with the traditional view not just at many branded goods companies but at the big grocers, which have typically offered a cornucopia of products.

While the discounters such as Aldi and Lidl have gained ground on direct price appeal, is it any coincidence that they also ruthlessly limit their ranges?

They offer only a fraction of the assortment typically carried by one of the big four.

The hard discounters’ ascendancy really took off during the recession, when consumers were determined to watch every penny.

The downturn stoked or coincided with other changes to consumption habits, such as the determination to avoid waste and the rise of convenience shopping.

It’s not too far-fetched to suggest that there has also been some reappraisal of what constitutes choice?

The abundance of similar product lines, infinite variations on a theme or every pack-size imaginable, may increasingly be a disadvantage.

Worse, offering such choice may be bad business. In P&G’s case, the brands it will retain account for about 90% of profits. That speaks volumes about the value to it of the 90 it will offload.

A limited range has been key to Aldi and Lidl’s success and is part of the business model that enables them to sell at profitable low prices.

There’s evidence of range rationalisation at big grocers and in their case too, less may indeed be more.