Product lines at Tesco Ireland have been cut by about 15% over the last year, as the retail giant looks to simplify its product range while putting fresh food first.

Andrew Yaxley, chief executive of Tesco Ireland, is reported as telling an industry conference last week that there had been “too many” product lines at Tesco Ireland.

“Our business here had become so complex, and that complexity costs too much money. We need a simpler operating model,” Yaxley is reported as saying.

“It will be fresh food first from now on, and only then will we support some of our shops with general merchandise, and only if it is the right-sized shop.”

Tesco says it is the world’s biggest buyer of Irish food and drink, purchasing €1.6 billion of Irish food and drink annually, including €931m for export.

Brands Vs Skews Debate

According to Amanda Farrell, Consumer PR Manager at Tesco Ireland, any such range reduction has already taken place.

“Over the past year we have been simplifying our range to give our customers the choice they want while also improving the availability of the products which our customers love most. We continue to back local suppliers.

“At the conference, Andrew Yaxley outlined Tesco’s focus on fresh food and highlighted that all of our fresh meat is 100% Irish and sourced from over 13,000 Irish farming families,” Farrel said.

Asked which Irish product lines and food brands have been affected, Farrell did not answer.

IBEC, which represents Irish businesses, was unwilling to comment on the product line reduction.

Kieran Rumley is Executive Director of Love Irish Food, an association of Irish brands formed in 2009 to help shoppers make informed choices about buying Irish manufactured food and drinks.

Rumley suggested that Tesco Ireland is probably not alone in product line reduction over the last year.

“It struck me that all of the major retailer were going down the route of examining the performance of individual brands and skews on their shelves.”

Rumley said Ireland’s top three retailers may have an average of about 20,000 lines on offer at any one time.

“It may be the case that some skews have been reduced, rather than some brands. So, say, if Brand X has two products, or skews, one might be removed and one remains, but the brand remains on sale. So it may be more about deleting skews rather than deleting brands.”

Were any concerns or complaints expressed to Love Irish Food by its members?

“I had a couple of inquiries around September last year. They were queries in regards to the exercise, as distinct from the outcome of the exercise,” Rumley said.

An Irish Love Affair

Love Irish Food recently published research on how attached Irish consumers are to their Irish-made grocery food and drink brands.

Those who claim to only buy or mostly buy brands, account for 43% of shoppers, with those who ‘seldom’ buy brands accounting for a mere 8% of shoppers.

Those living in Dublin are far more likely to be ‘brand loyalists,’ with 50% of respondents living in Dublin being self-determined brand loyalists, in that they ‘Only buy well-known brands.’

The research found that shopper choices are driven by trust in brands and their origin, quality and, to a lesser extent, price.

“Shoppers will continue to shop where they can find the brands that they know, love and consume,” said Rumley.

“Irish grocery food brands are now more competitively priced than ever. They offer the taste, and quality that Irish shoppers are increasingly looking for.

“We hope that Irish retailers will continue to support great Love Irish Food brands that are produced here in Ireland and that support 30,000 jobs in the local economy.”