Tesco makes the loudest noise in the media, with more coverage than Asda, Morrisons and Sainsburys put together

As well as dominating the British shopping landscape, Tesco also rules online media news about supermarkets. According to research commissioned by PRmoment, looking at online coverage of Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, Tesco had 59 per cent of the coverage, while Sainsbury’s generated just 5 per cent. Asda, the UK’s second largest supermarket chain, also came in second with the amount of coverage it spawned, being the subject of 17 per cent of stories.

Research supplied by Echo Sonar

It is not all good news for Tesco, as it was the target for far more criticism than the other supermarkets. Nearly one-third of stories about the giant were negative, compared to zero negative stories for Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Morrisons faced a small amount of criticism, with 2 per cent of negative stories, but it should be pleased that it generated an impressive 57 per cent of positive coverage (while Tesco succeeded in recording just 18 per cent).

As it is such a force to be reckoned with, Tesco is bound to attract a lot of mud slinging. Some solace can be taken in the fact that just over half of the stories were neutral. An example of one of the more unusual stories about Tesco, as reported at guardian.co.uk on 7 September described how: “The supermarket chain has fitted a herd of dairy cows with microphones to measure the amount of methane pumped out”.

Research supplied by Echo Sonar

It is of no surprise to financial writer and broadcaster Judi Bevan (and author of Trolley Wars – the Battle of the Supermarkets), that Morrisons generates so much positive coverage. She believes there is little doubt that Morrisons is the supermarket “group du jour“. She explains: “Under a new team it has ridden the recession wave particularly well, combining low prices, a reputation for great fresh food and some cunning celebrity adverts. Fashions change quickly in the supermarket wars however, and I predict that Sainsbury’s will soon be making another assault on the public consciousness based on quality and range.” 

Morrisons’ PR and media strategy is working well to get so much positive attention, and it is particularly impressive that it overtook Waitrose in its percentage of good news stories. Nevertheless, Waitrose is still succeeding in holding on to its reputation about the quality of its food. One article at Times Online on 5 September described a blind-test of eight common items in different ranges in Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco, and found that: “On average, across all the ranges, Waitrose scored highest.”

Ben Pratt, nutrition expert and creator/founder of www.naturalfoodfinder.co.uk, describes how a BBC Watchdog survey of UK supermarket preferences earlier this year found Waitrose to be the favourite, “because over 85 per cent of its shoppers were very satisfied in comparison to Tesco which was lagging well behind with 33 per cent being very satisfied, despite being the biggest supermarket chain by some margin.“

Discussing how the different supermarkets market themselves, in particular how they portray their food quality, Pratt says: “Some supermarkets portray an image quality through higher quality branded ranges, while some emphasise their greater range of organic produce and others their greater reliance on local or British produce.” Pratt finds it frustrating, however, that very little food available through the supermarkets seems to tick all of these boxes.

He explains: “Compassion in World Farming ran a survey on supermarket policy on the animal welfare standards and quality of food provided by the supermarkets. Top of the pile by some margin were Marks and Spencer and Waitrose, with considerably higher standards than all the others. Sainsbury's was awarded the most improved chain, coming fourth overall, with the lowest standards being identified as Asda in eighth.“ This leads Pratt to comment that being the cheapest supermarket does have its price, and that this price is a considerable sacrifice of food quality. Pratt confirms Waitrose’s status as being the most popular supermarket among consumers, saying that it is “The best across both surveys” and this is because this supermarket has “the highest customer satisfaction ratings and highest food quality and animal welfare standards compared to other supermarkets.”

Methodology

PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to compare UK online media coverage of Asda, Morrison, Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury‘s during the whole of August. Metrics included share of voice, volume of media topics and tonality.