Waitrose is to launch thousands of new and revamped products in the coming months as the battle for the hearts and minds of Ocado shoppers moves up a gear.
The supermarket’s deal with the online grocer will finish at the end of August, when it will be replaced by Marks & Spencer. The switchover is high risk for all the brands involved: Ocado risks losing loyal Waitrose shoppers while the supermarket, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership, will have to persuade shoppers to use its own website instead.
Last year, Ocado fired the opening salvo stating its product range would be bigger, cheaper and better quality under the M&S deal. The online grocer will stock 6,000 M&S products, compared with the 4,000 it sells as part of its supply deal with Waitrose. The alternatives would be the “same price or lower, and of the same quality or better” than the Waitrose ones, Ocado said.
Waitrose on the other hand says it is working on 5,000 new or reformulated products – a figure that equates to nearly a third of the 17,000 own-label products sold under house brands such as Duchy, Essential Waitrose and No.1. To come up with more distinctive products the retailer has made a multimillion-pound investment in the kitchens at its Bracknell headquarters in Berkshire.
The supermarket is also running a “you can taste when it’s Waitrose” advertising campaign to underline its foodie credentials. With short ads focused on fresh produce, “hand-rolled white sourdough bread made in London” and “100% Italian” olive oil produced in Umbria, the marketing push aims to claim the high ground as the UK’s “leading quality food retailer” selling products “unrivalled on quality and taste”.
The charm offensive comes ahead of Ocado’s full-year results on Tuesday when an update on the M&S joint venture is anticipated.