Let’s be honest, at some point over the last couple of years you’ve turned your nose up at someone who has told you they shop at Aldi. Go on, admit it. We all have.
Wind back 5 years ago the stigmatism associated with the German brand wasn’t completely unfounded. The stores used to be stocked with shoddy discounted Eastern-European produce, often located in run down areas, with inattentive teenage staff who’d rather scowl at you than serve you. This resulted in an underwhelming shopping experience, left to those unfortunate enough to shop there.
However, over the past four years, Aldi has turned the British supermarket industry on its head. The retailer is growing sales faster than any other food retailer, and the discount model is growing more quickly than any other segment of the market, including online and convenience stores.
As a result, the price of an average grocery shop is growing at the slowest pace on record and the “big four” supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – are facing their biggest challenge in a generation.
Their secret? Quite simply it all comes down to quality over quantity. Barnes and Heini, the executives of UK Aldi since 2011, state that a typical Aldi store will sell 1,000 to 1,100 products, compared with 25,000 in a traditional supermarket. In the UK, they have adapted this by adding more British foods, an upmarket own-brand range, and running television advertising campaigns.
Heini adds: “The core discount model hasn’t changed. It is the same in Australia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the US.
“What I would say though is that we have evolved parts of that to the market. So we have the biggest range of products [1,350], particularly in the area of fresh. Over 55pc of our core range of sales now is in fresh – that is quite a difference to other Aldi countries because that’s what British customers said they want. They want more meat, more fruit and veg, more deli, more dairy, and we pushed that very, very hard.”
Their ultra efficient quality model also extends to their staff, with Aldi employees being the highest paid supermarket attendants in the country. This, alongside their famously well-paid Graduate Management Scheme, ensures that not only do Aldi endeavour to stock the best produce, but they also have the best staff in each shop (talking of shops, the retailer has 530 shops, but it will clear 600 next year and aims to reach more than 1,000 by 2022!)
Why so snobby?
Yet despite their undisputed success, I believe there is still a image problem with Aldi, and especially when it comes to the drinks they serve.
Now if I was to turn up to a get-together this week and bring a £9.99 bottle of ‘Oliver Cromwell Dry Gin’ and tonic I’m pretty sure it’ll raise some eyebrows. Yet little do my contemporaries know, the store’s £9.99 gin was actually voted top tipple by judges at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge. To put this into context it saw off a premium bottle of Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve Gin for £70, wiped the floor with upmarket Tanqueray No 10 Gin for £32, and smashed the popular Hendrick’s Gin for £28.
Again, I could attempt to dazzle my mates with a bottle of Aldi’s £12.99 Highland Black 8 Year Old Scotch Whisky (which beat bottles worth six times the price), or even if the weather permits bring a bottle of Aldi’s Riseling or Savignon Blanc, which also beat other ‘superior’ brands in the market.
However, despite more shoppers from the A and B socio-economic groups flocking to Aldi last Christmas ( via selling caviar and crab for the first time) you know and I know, that despite the qualities of the aforementioned drinks, inevitably they won’t go down very well at a dinner party, or as a gift for a friend.
So how come no one raises an eyebrow at Aldi bought crab, but do at Aldi branded quality Gin? British snobbery? Materialism? Distrust in the brand? Probably all three.
Whether we like it or not, what you drink and where you drink is a symbol of your social status. This is why you don’t see Dan Blizarian surrounding himself with pints of Boddingtons on his Instagram posts. Booze is sadly not all about how it tastes, or if you like it, but also quite honestly how you feel others perceive you when you are imbibing. You may love the taste of Aldi’s Scotch it may bring you great pleasure with every mouthful, however if your peers are unlikely to approve of your choice of beverage, then you are less likely to purchase it.
It’s a sad truth and damming reflection of our society, and one which I believe will see Aldi’s own-brand drinks exclusively becoming a feature within student halls and, sadly, not to wider-society.
I hope I’m proved wrong!