The sincerest form of flattery?

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Two of our big grocery beasts, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, announced important changes to their own label strategies recently. Readers may experience an odd sense of deja vu on both counts.

Sainsbury’s has announced the launch of 120 new products under 12 tertiary brands which will replace its existing, entry-level range, Basics.

Keen observers may detect a close resemblance to Tesco’s highly successful Exclusively at Tesco range of food brands such as T.E. Stockwell’s and Ms. Molly’s. Sainsbury’s Food Commercial Director, Paul Mills-Hicks, had cried “foul” insisting “this was not a me-too range”, although he might have admitted to a “me-too design strategy”.

At launch, the Exclusively at Tesco range came in for some criticism on the basis that it was deliberately misleading customers by suggesting that ranges such as Creamfields Dairy and Boswell Farms implied genuine provenance. Sainsbury’s have sought to avoid this by linking the new tertiary brand names with its history and heritage. Thus, Stamford St frozen foods links back to Sainsbury’s historical head office address, whilst J. James & Family harkens back to John James Sainsbury, the great man himself.

They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Sainsbury’s “homage to Tesco” suggested by this latest innovation is likely to excite industry commentators over the next few weeks. In any event, Sainsbury’s customers will have the final say.

At the same time, Waitrose have just relaunched their top tier range, with the introduction of Waitrose & Partners No. 1. Around 200 new products have been added to the range, which has also been extended into wine and flowers. As you would expect, the new Waitrose packs are beautifully crafted, with mouth-watering photography (where appropriate) and tempting, recipe-inspired product descriptions. Environmental considerations also feature prominently; for example, recyclable gold foil replaces many black trays on ready meals. And the new ranges merchandise well on shelf.

However, pound for pound, is it just me or do the new Waitrose packs bear an uncanny resemblance to the grand-daddy of premium tier own label, Tesco Finest?