Morrisons calling all the heroes to deliver Christmas

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Morrisons has unveiled its biggest ever Christmas range including 500 new products following consumer research which showed where it went wrong last Christmas.

The Bradford-based supermarket chain, which admits it has failed to promote its value credentials, is pinning its hopes on a number of ‘hero’ products such as Christmas tree smoked salmon (smoked over pine and spruce branches), tear and share Christmas tree bread, a three fish roast and a white Christmas pudding.

The emphasis is on affordable treats and Morrisons’ chefs have invented a number of low cost dishes such as Crackling Turkey, which combines turkey with pork tenderloin topped with pork rind. Pork is less expensive than turkey, which helps reduce the price.

Turkey prices have risen this year following a rise in feed costs, but Morrisons has said it will freeze prices this Christmas.

The supermarket chain is offering hard-pressed consumers a traditional Christmas day dinner for £2.49 per head.

The meal, which feeds eight people features a £9 frozen turkey, M Savers vegetables, two 85p Christmas puddings and 10p mince pies.

Morrisons’ chief executive Dalton Philips admitted that mistakes have been made and Morrisons has not done “a good enough job to get our point of difference over”.

The retailer has been criticised for alienating core shoppers by going upmarket with the introduction of mist sprayed exotic vegetables, but Mr Philips said the prices are still lower than rivals.

He added that converted ‘Fresh Format’ stores have seen a four to six per cent rise in sales.

Research conducted by Morrisons’ own brand director Belinda Youngs showed that customers want food for several different festive occasions – not just the traditional Christmas dinner.

“The research showed where we are delivering and where we were falling short,” she said.

“Customers wanted more party food, more platters, more customer ordering and more novelty and gift ideas.

“They also want food that meets a number of occasions such as Christmas breakfast, New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.”

Some 30 per cent of the group’s media spend will be spent on 18 ‘hero’ products.

These include a snow-capped Baked Alaska, chocolate and orange Candy Cane bread, stollen, panettone and party food such as chicken dim sum and duck straws with hoisin dip.

Ms Youngs said the research has helped it to overcome customer gripes such as party food needing different temperatures. All of its party food this year can be cooked at 200 degrees centigrade.

The group has also introduced ‘Intelligent Queue Management’ which counts how many people come through the doors and predicts how many tills will need to open up during busy times.

Other initiatives include arranging wine by price rather than region and the decision to buy all of its farmers’ vegetables regardless of size or attractiveness in a bid to overcome the poor harvest.

Traditionally small, large and ugly vegetables have been rejected.

The potato crop is down 45 per cent on last year, the brussels sprout crop is down 30 per cent and the parsnip crop is down 15 per cent due to the dire weather which has blighted vegetable crops.

Mr Philips said that seafood is now sourced directly and processed at Morrisons’ seafood factory in Grimsby.

“We buy straight from the boat and take it straight into the factory.

“It means our fish is up to four days fresher as we cut out the middle man,” said Mr Philips.

“We have over 1,000 trained fishmongers. We haven’t done a good enough job talking about our craft skills. We need to showcase them,” he added.

Both Morrisons and Leeds-based Asda are calling on the Government to extend trading hours on Sunday, December 23 – the busiest shopping day of the year.

Mr Philips said laws that restrict superstores to opening for just six hours on Sunday will bring stress and chaos for customers and colleagues.