Wal-Mart in the cattle business?

wagyu-small.jpgAsda, Britain’s second largest grocery chain and a division of US retail giant Wal-Mart, has announced plans to start producing its own Wagyu beef in England. Wagyu cattle hail from Japan and are world-renowned for their tenderness, marbling and flavourful meat.

The low-cost grocer hopes raising its own Wagyu cattle will allow it to sell Wagyu beef at lower prices than competing British retailers Harrods and Selfridges, where Wagyu is a premium product that commands a premium price. Asda is also said to be planting its own truffle forests in Yorkshire.

These moves do seem to support arguments presented by Harvey Hartman at a meeting in Guelph ON yesterday. Hartman talked about growing consumer demand for products that were once reserved for special occasions and consumer willingness to pay more for premium items. Certainly this effort by Asda to bring arguably the world’s most expensive beef and sought-after fungi into what is perceived by many to be a low-cost retailer underlines that trend.

However, it remains to be seen whether Asda can satisfy some of the other consumer demands Hartman mentioned, such as exhibiting a passion for food and offering unique experiences, in an effort to draw more shoppers to their locations versus the growing number of specialty stores. These aren’t characteristics most people generally tend to associate with Asda/Wal-Mart…

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