Morrisons boost as horsemeat scandal hits rivals

Morrisons’ shares saw a welcome rise yesterday as the timing of the horsemeat scandal with a new advertising campaign promoting its 100 per cent British beef credentials struck a chord with angry consumers.

Knottingley Morrisons in store butcher, Antony Ward stars alongside Ant and Dec in the supermarkets new advertising campaign, currently featuring on the nations small screens
Knottingley Morrisons in store butcher, Antony Ward stars alongside Ant and Dec in the supermarkets new advertising campaign, currently featuring on the nations small screens

The Bradford-based supermarket’s new campaign features TV presenters Ant and Dec showing how Morrisons can track its meat from farm to plate.

Yesterday the scandal escalated following revelations from a meat lorry driver about serious daily breaches of safety regulations.

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The un-named driver said just two companies, Morrisons and Waitrose, had impressed him with the rigorous checks they make on every delivery.

Speaking to Sky News, the driver said: “I only shop and feed my kids food from Morrisons and Waitrose because I see how they operate.

“In fact it is a joke amongst the drivers that it is a pain to deliver to Morrisons because they check everything – it takes ages and they often turn stuff away if it isn’t up to scratch.”

Analyst Caroline Gulliver at Espirito Santo said: “We think consumer trust in processed value meat products has taken a knock and note Morrisons may benefit given its new advertising campaign starring Morrisons’ own butchers alongside Ant and Dec.”

The Geordie duo are highlighting the traditional craft skills in store at Morrisons. The latest ad features Knottingley-based butcher Antony Ward introducing Ant and Dec to some traditional British breeds of cattle, before they help him behind his counter.

Morrisons said the ad highlights its ability to track its meat from “field to fork”.

Analyst Sam Hart at Charles Stanley said: “Morrisons is well positioned with respect to the horse meat scandal. They control their own abattoirs and they really do know what is going into their meat products.”

Dalton Philips, chief executive of Morrisons, said the complexity of the food supply chain needs to be addressed.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he said: “We are firmly in the camp that we keep it simple. We own our own abattoirs, we own our own meat processing sites, so we have full traceability and the UK has moved away in the search for cheap food and there are risks involved.

“Traditionally, it was four steps: the farmer who sold to the abattoir, who sold to the meat processing plant, who sold it on to the retailer.

“Today the sector has become very complex and there’s many intermediaries and products moving around. The challenge is making it less complex. With complexity enters risk.

“What we are saying is you have got to go back to the traditional retail methods of knowing exactly who you are buying the products from. In our case, we own our manufacturing; we own our abattoirs, so we have full traceability in fresh meat products.”

Some 200,000 cattle, 700,000 lambs and a million pigs went through Morrisons’ abattoirs last year.

A spokesman said: “We buy more produce directly from British farmers than any other major supermarket and all Morrisons-branded fresh meat is 100 per cent British.”

The supermarket chain is the second biggest fresh food manufacturer in the UK behind 
Vion and it expects to become 
the biggest in the next couple of years.

Yesterday Morrisons shares rose 6p to 256p.

Morrisons has had a tough time of late due to a lack of online and convenience shopping. Investors expect it to announce its long awaited entry into the online shopping arena at its annual results next month.

Of the big four grocers, Morrisons was the biggest loser over the festive period. Its like-for-like sales fell by 2.5 per cent in the six weeks to December 30.

Mr Philips said that there are advantages to being a latecomer to online retailing.

“There are late mover advantages such as around technology. It’s very hard to re-platform the websites. We are garnering knowledge on what is working out there,” he said.

Where stores lost floating shoppers

Asked where Morrisons has lost out, chief executive Dalton Philips said floating customers have gone online and to convenience stores.

“There are shoppers who are very promotional and shop around. Those are the ones we lost. Online is the fastest growing segment and it’s an area we’re not in. We need to be in these new channels,” he said.

Some analysts believe Morrisons is alienating core customers who believe the revamped Fresh Format stores mean a move away from the group’s traditional value credentials, but Mr Philips said these stores are seeing a four to six per cent increase in sales.