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Waitrose challenges Asda over ‘Essentials’ budget range branding

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By John Glenday | Reporter

March 29, 2022 | 3 min read

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Asda has become embroiled in a legal tussle after upmarket grocer Waitrose called in the lawyers to protest its use of ‘Essentials’ in the branding of a new discount brand.

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Waitrose faces a legal tussle with Asda over its similarly-named affordable grocery range

The supermarket standoff centers on Asda’s £45m newly-launched Just Essentials grocery range, designed to offer consumers a budget alternative to staple goods. But Waitrose contends it strays too close to its own Essential Waitrose line.

Waitrose lawyers argue that the word ‘essential’ is associated with its discount range, which has been a presence on its aisles for 13 years. Asda has disputed the claim, saying it’s a ‘generic term’ in common parlance among retailers.

Setting the stage for an impending courtroom battle, a Waitrose spokesperson said: “We were surprised to hear that Asda is launching an essentials range as the Essential Waitrose brand has been in use since 2009 and has built up a strong reputation for value, quality and higher welfare standards in that time.

“As we’ve also protected the name as a trademark, we have raised this with Asda and are awaiting a response.”

An Asda spokesperson issued a blunt response: “The word ‘essentials’ is a generic and commonly-used term by retailers to describe their value product ranges.”

Rampant inflation has sparked a cost-of-living crisis, with supermarket chains scrambling to bolster their budget ranges to cater for the growing demand for cut-price alternatives to established brands. This has seen Asda singled out for criticism over shortages of its lowest-priced goods, prompting it to launch a reduced price ‘essentials’ line of 300 common items in May, which will eventually replace its Smart Price range.

Supermarket chains have become increasingly litigious to protect their intellectual property, as evidenced by a bitter battle between Marks & Spencer and Aldi over the latter’s alleged theft of Colin the Caterpillar, which had a similar counterpart at the discount grocer named ‘Cuthbert.’

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