The new chain will offer gourmet food at affordable prices Hutchison Whampoa has launched its latest assault on the competitive retailing sector by opening the first store of a 13-strong mid-range supermarket chain Taste. A 35,000-square-foot Taste was unveiled in Festival Walk at Kowloon Tong yesterday. It is described as a refined version of the group's daily grocery supermarket ParknShop and a more affordable version of gourmet food store Great. Analysts said the format would intensify competition in the already punishing supermarket segment with expansion into bakery, sandwich bar, delicatessen and wine cellar services. 'We want to cater for a wider and more diverse customer portfolio, from affluent to budget shoppers,' said Iwan Evans, chief executive of the food, electronics and general merchandise division of Hutchison's retailing flagship AS Watson. 'We are being competitive and investing in the future.' The group aimed to open between eight and 12 Taste stores in the next few years at a cost of $20 million per store, Mr Evans said. The Festival Walk store used to be a ParknShop superstore but future Taste stores would not involve such conversions, he said, adding that the next Taste was likely to be on Hong Kong Island. Analysts said a more upmarket image could bring up average sale prices and sales at Taste, but Mr Evans said prices were the same as ParknShop. 'We expect the Festival Walk store will have sales growth of about 20 per cent mainly because of a much bigger range of products,' he said. Last week, ParknShop unveiled plans to revamp 15 superstores at a cost of $150 million to boost its sales and dominance in the grocery and daily necessities market. A key feature of the revamp is adding bakery, Chinese roasted meat, sushi, fast food, seafood, fresh meat and vegetable counters to the superstores, paving the way for establishing a specialist chain of bakeries and Chinese roasted meat and sushi outlets. Rival Wellcome, a Dairy Farm International Holdings unit, is understood to be preparing to counter ParknShop's aggressive moves by unveiling a string of initiatives next week. Mr Evans said Taste's ambition would not be confined to Hong Kong. The group was planning its first store in Shanghai next year while scouting for suitable locations in Guangzhou and Beijing. 'We want to expand our presence in the Yangtze River delta and be the biggest player in southern China,' he said.