British supermarkets fight over "essential" branding

Waitrose, a relatively upscale UK supermarket chain, has offered an in-house grocery line titled "Essential Waitrose" since 2009. Asda, a relatively downmarket UK supermarket chain, just renamed its own in-house grocery line "Just Essentials." Waitrose is mad about this, citing its trademark registration. Asda has told it to go pound sand if it thinks it can justify a trademark on such a generic term as "Essentials."

Ms Shuttleworth said the difference between supermarket brands was "very slim" and Waitrose's move showed how competitive the battle for shoppers had become.

However Steve Dresser, chief executive of Retail Insight, said Waitrose had reduced its presence in the north of England by gradually closing more stores whereas Asda had expanded there.

Mr Dresser said that this geographical division meant there would be less crossover in the shoppers that Asda's new range is targeting.

Context: groceries are becoming less available and affordable to Britons because of inflation, war in the grainbasket, endless pandemic and Brexit, so mass-market supermarkets are abandoning their cheapness signifiers ("value", "economy", "Asda Smart Price") in favor of vaguer lifestyle terms ("essentials", "basics", "Co-op Skipdiver") that aren't so obviously hung on pricing expectations. But this brings them into conflict with fancier retailers which have long used such branding to offer cheaper stuff without compromising their posh image.