This week has been a positive period for certain retailers as Aldi announced plans to expand in Ireland, while in the UK, Sainsbury’s posted an 11% rise in annual underlying profits. Asda was also upbeat with an 8.4% rise in sales as it lured shoppers from rivals. Elsewhere, Grupo Lala scooped up National Dairy in a bid to expand in the US and salads group Florette acquired UK counterpart, Salads To Go. These are the top ten stories on just-food this week.

UPDATE: UK: Improved image boosts Sainsbury’s – CEO
Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King claimed today (13 May) that the company’s improved image in the eyes of consumers had driven the retailer’s robust results in the last 12 months. King said cash-strapped UK shoppers now saw Sainsbury’s as a place that offered them value, an image that contrasted with the image of the business in the 1990s, when it was seen as relatively upmarket.

UK: Asda lures shoppers from rivals in Q1
Asda, the UK’s number two food retailer by sales, today (14 May) posted an 8.4% rise in underlying like-for-like sales in the first quarter of its fiscal year. The Wal-Mart-owned firm said it was “winning customers from all competitors” and seeing sales grow at twice the rate of the UK market.

SPAIN: SOS issues shares to cut debt
Grupo SOS, the Spanish owner of Carbonell and Bertolli olive oil, is to issue EUR200m (US$272.7m) of new shares in the business in a bid to shore up the company’s debts. The move, which has led to SOS restating its 2008 accounts, was approved in a board meeting yesterday (10 May), the company told just-food today.

MEXICO: Grupo Lala acquires National Dairy
Mexican food and drinks company Grupo Lala has acquired milk processing company National Dairy from DFA in a bid to expand its presence in the US. National Dairy, based in Dallas, is one of the largest milk processors in the US and a producer of branded and private-label dairy products. The company’s most recognized regional brands include Borden, Dairy Fresh, Velda Farms, Flav-O-Rich, Sinton’s and Meyer Dairy.

FRANCE: Protestors target dairy giants
Milk producers in France are targeting plants operated by the country’s biggest dairy groups as they protest at price cuts of more than 30% in the second quarter of the year. Dairy farmers continued their blockade of Danone plant at Ferrières-en-Bray, in Normandy, yesterday (14 May) after beginning their action on Tuesday. Tractors and a cattle truck blocked the entrance to the plant.  

IRELAND: Aldi outlines Irish expansion
German discount supermarket chain Aldi is to create over 1,000 jobs in Ireland over the next few years boosted by the construction of a new distribution centre and office facility. The jobs boost will come from a EUR350m (US476.2m) expansion programme, which includes a distribution centre and 35 stores throughout the country.

FRANCE/UK: Florette buys Salads To Go
French prepared salads group Florette has acquired UK counterpart, Salads To Go, for an undisclosed sum. The purchase takes the number of Florette’s production sites in Europe to ten.

US: PepsiCo launches Frito Lay ‘farmers’ campaign
PepsiCo’s Frito Lay has launched a nationwide marketing campaign celebrating the communities that produce its line of potato chips. The is the second phase of the brand’s repositioning strategy that started earlier this year. The ‘Lay’s Local’ marketing campaign puts a spotlight on potato farmers from California, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Texas that grow potatoes used in Lay’s potato chips as the faces for the brand.

US: Gen Mills defends Cheerios heart health claim
General Mills is looking ahead to talks with US regulators after being accused of using “unauthorised health claims” on a Cheerios cereal product. The US food giant was served with a  letter form the US Food and Drug Administration that criticised the company for selling “misbranded food” and for the misuse of claims that Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal could lower cholesterol.

US: Whole Foods shares tumble as profits fall
Shares in Whole Foods Market, the US organics retailer, dropped by more than 9% yesterday (13 May) as the company reported a fall in second-quarter earnings and sales. The company, which has suffered amid the economic downturn, booked net income of US$35.3m for the three months to 12 April. The result compared to net income of US$40m a year earlier.