Sainsbury’s and Asda have
lodged an application with the Competition Appeal Tribunal for a Judicial
Review of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Phase Two investigation
into their proposed merger.
The application seeks to
review the timetable for the CMA’s investigation after the regulator refused
the two supermarkets longer to respond to evidence about their proposed £7.3
In a statement J Sainsbury
plc said, ‘The current timetable does not give the Parties or the CMA sufficient
time to provide and consider all the evidence given the unprecedented scale and
complexity of the case. Both Parties have engaged constructively with the CMA
to date and have made repeated requests for additional time. Specifically, we
have asked the CMA for an additional 11 working days over the Christmas period
to respond to a large amount of material recently provided to us.’
Sainsbury’s shares fell by
up to 5.5 per cent on the news according to Reuters.
In response to the original
request for an additional 11 days to respond over the Christmas period, the CMA
granting an extension would put its ability to complete the investigation by
the required deadline “at very serious risk”. It added, “As with all of our
merger reviews, we construct our timetable to ensure that everyone has the
chance to have their say, including customers, the companies involved and
Despite consistent reassurances by Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe that there will be no store closures or job losses as a result of the proposed merger between his company and rival supermarket chain Asda, new analysis by The Times suggests that competition watchdogs could demand that as many as 300 stores are sold off if the deal is given the go ahead.
The analysis is said to have used the same modelling techniques which are likely to be employed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) when considering such a deal, and also revealed that at around half of the 300 locations identified, Tesco or Morrisons may not wish to buy one of the former Asda or Sainsbury’s stores.
The news will come as a blow to Sainsbury’s which had already been accused of offering “Mickey Mouse figures” about the merger by MP Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
Last week the CMA confirmed that its formal investigation into the merger has begun. Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said, “We will carry out a thorough investigation to find out if this merger could lead to higher prices or a worse quality of service for shoppers and will not allow it to go ahead unless any concerns we find are fully dealt with.” In May an initial estimate by the BBC suggested that 73 stores may have to be sold to get the deal approved.
Sainsbury’s has asked its suppliers to bring forward ideas for new products and innovations as it tries to differentiate itself in the marketplace.
Speaking at the retailer’s annual Farming Conference, Produce technologist Lily Peck said her remit is to “look for something different.”
She added, “Any great ideas you have, talk to your technical manager about it and help us differentiate our range.” She cited the launch of bunched radishes (supplied by G’s grower Scott Watson) and sweet-stemmed cauliflower as particular successes.
However, the retailer also confirmed that a major overhaul of suppliers is continuing as the company aims to have ‘fewer and longer-term relationships,’ shifting towards direct grower sourcing.
Sainsbury’s director of brand Judith Batchelar said, “While our competitors will have been buying their own packaging facilities and performing that part in the value chain themselves, the way we’ve looked at it is much more direct relationships with growers.”
Product Manager Sarah Blandford described a three-year project with potato supplier Greenvale to improve production efficiencies: “We had four times as many potato growers as we needed for our 52-week supply requirements. We had some fantastic growers and we had some good growers.” She added that Sainsbury’s looks for suppliers who are proactively monitoring things like yield potential.
Photo Caption: Sainsbury’s Product Manager Sarah Blandford
Supermarket Sainsbury’s has revealed that during the four months of summer, strawberries are its most popular product, outselling even milk and bread.
The retailer predicts a peak increase in strawberry sales of 700% compared to average levels, accounting for a large part of the 126,000 tonnes of the fruit sold each year in the UK. The retailer also expects to see an increase in sales of sparkling wine and has said that the pairing of Taste the Difference Crémant de Loire with the Murano strawberry.
Sainsbury’s strawberry technician Peter Czarnobaj said, “There’s much more to strawberries than meets the eye and it can take years to develop each variety. What I love about Murano is that it perfectly balances sweetness with acidity as well as having a great shape and depth of colour. We sell more strawberries than any other product for up to 16 weeks so it’s important that our customers can enjoy British-grown strawberries for as long as possible.”
The supermarket claims to offer 18 different varieties of British strawberries throughout the season including Murano, Sonata and Majestic, as well as Elsanta. Murano was first developed for Sainsbury’s in 2014 and is noted for its winning combination of flavour and vibrant colour.
As part of its ‘Save Our Spuds’ campaign, Sainsbury’s has introduced new packaging which will prevent potatoes from going green and developing a bitter taste. Designed to be 100% opaque – whilst still breathable – the new packaging prevents any light from reaching the produce, the most common culprit for greening.
The green discolouration develops thanks to a build-up of solanine which is triggered by too much light. The retailer estimates that this is responsible for the wasting of 5.8 million potatoes every day.
Jane Skelton, Head of Packaging for Sainsbury’s, commented, “Potatoes are a British favourite. But exposure to sunlight means many of our spuds never make it to the table. That’s why we’re calling ‘lights out’ in our latest effort to help tackle food waste. We’re confident that this will improve the shelf-life of our potatoes and, while the packaging might be opaque, we’re hoping the results will be clear to see.”
The new packaging will be rolled out across Sainsbury’s stores, across King Edwards and Lady Balfour potatoes – two varieties which are most susceptible to greening. The retailer continues to recommend that all potatoes should be kept in a cool, dark place.
Photo Caption: Lady Balfour and King Edwards will be the first to benefit from the new packaging
Sainsbury’s has become the first company in the world to take delivery of Carrier Transicold’s prototype natural refrigerant trailer unit.
The new generation of transport refrigeration system for trailers operate exclusively with carbon dioxide (CO2) refrigerant, which has a global warming potential (GWP) of just one making it the baseline against which all other refrigerants are measured. The GWP of CO2 is also lower than other natural refrigerants, such as propane and ammonia and it is non-ozone depleting.
The delivery marks the first of three units to join the Sainsbury’s fleet this year as part of a three-year technology field trial and builds on the success of a 2013 pilot, which saw the supermarket operate a modified refrigeration system for ocean containers – making it the first naturally refrigerated trailer operating anywhere in the world.
Gary King, operations support manager for Sainsbury’s commented, “The beauty of Carrier Transicold’s prototype trailer unit is it delivers a massive reduction in F-Gases by using natural refrigerant. This will directly help us achieve our ambitious environmental and sustainability goals, whilst delivering a seismic leap forward in terms of sustainability within the cold chain.”
Sainsbury’s has revealed its first quarterly rise in sales for more than two years.
It said that its sales through established stores and online rose 0.1% in the nine weeks ending 12 March. The figures included a 14% rise in online grocery sales, 10% rise in sales of clothing and 11% lift in sales of entertainment products, such as CDs and DVDs.
Of particular interest to growers will be news that food price deflation slowed at the retailer to 1 to 1.5% from 1.5% and 2% over the previous six months. The company said underlying sales at its large supermarkets were flat to slightly down, with the vast majority of growth coming from online, but that products tapping into new foodie trends like ‘courgetti’ (spaghetti made from courgettes) and ‘boodles’ (noodles made from butternut squash) had helped to attract new customers.
With the farming industry requiring 60,000 new employees by 2020 simply to replace existing farmers, Sainsbury’s is calling on young adults to consider a career in farming as it opens applications for its horticultural and agricultural apprenticeship programme.
The Sainsbury’s apprenticeship programme, which is run in partnership with Staffline, gives young people aged 16 and above the chance to work with some of the retailer’s most progressive food suppliers, many of whom use the latest innovations and technology in the sector – from learning the digital infrastructure of glasshouse computer systems to managing crop growth through the use of drones and smart phone apps.
Every 12 weeks apprentices visit different growers in Sainsbury’s supply chain, while in between visits they learn the practical aspects of their chosen career from harvesting; identifying and dealing with pests, diseases and disorders; planting; monitoring moisture and nutrients; pruning and use of state-of-the art equipment and digital tools.
Robert Honeysett, Sainsbury’s Horticultural Manager, said, “Our research reveals there’s a significant gap between what young people think of farming, and some of the jobs that are available today. We’re passionate in playing our part to support the future of British farming, and help attract young people into the industry.
“A third of those surveyed assume they need a family connection to break into the sector, which isn’t the case. We hope our apprenticeship programme will help show that there are a number of alternative routes into farming, and we’d encourage school leavers and young professionals to consider it. It’s one of the most dynamic industries in the UK to work in.”
According to the latest forecast from the World Apple & Pear Association, Europe is in for a bumper apple crop this year.
Speaking at the recent Prognosfruit conference the WAPA’s Philippe Binard said that larger crops in Poland, Italy, France, Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic would more than compensate for declines in Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary and Greece.
Total apple production in the EU is estimated to be 11.97 million tonnes this year, with the pear crop at 2.34 million tonnes. Although down 5 per cent on last year’s figure, the apple figure is still 11 per cent above the five-year average. Traditionally popular apple varieties such as Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Idared will see falls in production, while more recent introductions like Fuji and Pinova are on the rise.
In the UK, the latest figures from English Apples & Pears show that Sainsbury’s is the top retailer of English apples and pears after selling 42,000 tonnes this season. Of the 26 different apple varieties, and six pears, that Sainsbury’s sold, Gala remains the most popular, accounting for almost a third of the store’s apple sales.
The latest grocery share figures from Kantar Worldpanel, for the 12 weeks ending 29 March 2015, show that Aldi has become Britain’s sixth largest supermarket, beating Waitrose to the slot for the first time.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, explained, “Aldi has recorded double-digit sales growth for the past four years and is now Britain’s sixth largest supermarket with 5.3% of the market. Growth has been fuelled by over half a million new shoppers choosing to visit Aldi this year and average basket sizes increasing by 7%. The German discounter’s sales have increased by 16.8% in the latest period, still high compared to other retailers but slower relative to its recent performance.”
The figures show that Lidl and Waitrose were the only other retailers to grow sales ahead of the market and increase their market share in the latest period. Waitrose increased its sales by 2.9% compared with this time last year and now accounts for 5.1% of the grocery market. Waitrose has grown its sales in an unbroken run stretching back to March 2009. Lidl’s 12.1% sales growth moved it up to a 3.7% share of the market.
There was also some good news for Sainsbury’s, which Sainsbury’s which returned to growth this period for the first time since August 2014. Fraser McKevitt added, “The changing structure of Britain’s supermarket landscape is illustrated by two facts. Firstly, the so called discounters Aldi and Lidl now command a combined 9.0% share of the market. In 2012 the same two retailers only accounted for 5.4% of grocery sales. Secondly, the 72.8% share taken by the biggest four retailers is now at the lowest level in a decade.”